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Patriots Blog

Patriots may finally pay the price for allowing Brady to hand off in practice



Saturday, January 20, 2018
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady reportedly injured his throwing hand during a gruesome handoff incident in Wednesday’s practice, putting his status for Sunday’s AFC Championship game in doubt and forcing New England to acknowledge the existence of backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. The Pats recklessly tempted fate by allowing Brady to make handoffs in practice without incident for nearly two decades, and now their season is in jeopardy because of the careless procedure.
 
Reports said Brady sliced open that hand on the buckle of a teammate’s helmet while trying to execute the woefully ill-advised practice handoff. With the inevitable wound reportedly “gushing blood,” the Pats were left to wonder why they’d let Brady —who just last year missed a preseason game after cutting his hand with a pair of scissors — anywhere near the buckle of a teammate’s helmet. It begs the question of why at age 40 the quarterback was engaging in any physical activity whatsoever. If he misses Sunday's game, that would be long overdue comeuppance for New England's willful disregard of his well being.
 
Although NFL rules require quarterbacks to perform their own handoffs during games, there is nothing that would prohibit the Pats from deploying a designated handoff specialist during practices. Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio, for example, throws footballs and could easily be recruited to hand them off if liability insurance would cover that. The Patriots would not say if they planned for Brady to continue handing off in practice, but rumors suggest they still allow him to use scissors that are not safety scissors.
 
Yet another Patriots mystery in a season full of them made itself evident as Brady pushed back his weekly press conference from Wednesday to Thursday and then finally to Friday. He arrived at the indoor event wearing two ridiculous-looking red gloves, which is strange even in Foxborough, a place where fans are accustomed to quarterbacks who wear sunglasses inside (to whatever degree Scott Zolak counts as a quarterback). Some say the gloves hid four stitches around one of Brady’s right knuckles. When asked if he’d be playing on Sunday, Brady said, “We’ll see,” giving Patriots fans no reason to believe their season didn’t end on a botched handoff in a mid-week practice, and forcing the Jacksonville Jaguars to wonder how much time they’d have to waste preparing for another person to throw footballs at them on Sunday.
 
For the sake of formality, the Patriots do have a backup quarterback. His name is Brian Hoyer, New England head coach Bill Belichick admitted on Friday. Nonetheless, the Patriots have always been a team that only knows one way to win, and the existence of a next man available to step up is of little comfort.
 
Optimists, who apparently exist, note that Hoyer somehow had a 7-6 record in 2014 with the Cleveland Browns, a team that has gone 4-46 since his last start. The worst thing about Hoyer is that he is not Jimmy Garoppolo, a way more handsome quarterback who now plays for the 49ers because Bill the GM is an idiot who trades handsome, young quarterbacks knowing full well that Bill the Coach allows Brady to hand off during practice.
 
Remember that New England has played other games without Brady during the Belichick era, but the Pats are just 14-6 in those games, winning only one of them with a third-string quarterback on a Thursday night. It’s also important to keep this in mind: The Patriots are just 62 percent more likely to win a game with a backup quarterback than the Cleveland Browns are win a game at all (based on the Browns’ last 50 games).
 
Everyone has been parsing Belichick and Brady’s language throughout the week looking for clues that might send some form of comfort to the Patriots faithful. Combing press conference transcripts, examining the first letter of every paragraph to see if there’s a hidden message. Looking for clues in invisible ink. Nothing is there but ambiguity, and now memories turn back to the last time Brady was unavailable in an AFC Championship game. Drew Bledsoe had to play much of that afternoon, and while the Pats did win, at least three New England states ran out of antacids and valium.

Course, that happened when the Patriots were built around a defense that gave up the sixth-fewest points in the league. Not the porous defense they have now, which gave up the 29th-most yards and the fifth-fewest points in the league.
 
Kickoff comes at 3 p.m., but will the Patriots even have anything to play for? We’ll see, folks. We’ll see.
 
Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent who covers the Patriots for the Monitor. You can follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown.