HOUSTON (CBS) – Might as well get right to the point: I'm worried about Tom Brady.
He's human, you know, the quarterback of the Patriots is. We know this for certain now because the other night, in the superficial spectacle known as Media Day, the GQB with the supermodel wife, impenetrable poise and Turtle Wax smile got the simplest question from 7-year-old Joseph Perez, who was perched on the shoulders of ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer.
Who's your hero? Brady began to answer the question – "My dad," he said – before his voice cracked and his eyes welled, and then everything just choked up and stopped.
Yesterday, we learned that Brady's mother has been ill for some time. He has noted how his parents will be coming to the Super Bowl this week, the first time his mother has been able to attend a game this year, just the second time for his father. Brady himself described his parents' inability to travel to his games as "atypical," and we have learned, over the last 17 years or so, that family is as deeply-rooted in him as football.
Scratch that. Family is more deeply-rooted in him than football. Which is completely, totally, fine. That's how it should be.
Just for a moment, stop and ask yourself this question: when have you ever seen him so, well, human? Brady has been with the Patriots for 17 seasons. He has won a ton, lost a little, showed a range of human emotions. Elation. Frustration. Anger. Humility. Arrogance. He has been hit and knocked down, risen and hit back. But he has never, ever really showed you hurt.
As such, you have never, ever really sat there and said, directly and simply, "I'm worried about the quarterback."
More than anything else Brady has given the Patriots during his extraordinary, unprecedented career, that is perhaps his greatest gift to Bill Belichick, to Robert Kraft, to the Patriots and to you. You've never really had to worry about the quarterback.
Before we go any further, let's remember who the Patriots are. Under Belichick, the Patriots have not merely avoided inviting distractions. They have shunned them. More than any team in football – perhaps more than any franchise, corporation or group in all of America – the Patriots possess impenetrable focus. This is especially true of Belichick his spitting-image quarterback. The coach and the quarterback have set the tone. They show up every Sunday. In good years or in bad years, the Patriots have always had the coach and the quarterback, the coach and the quarterback, the coach and the quarterback. Nothing else ever really got inside.
Does this explain much of Brady's behavior in recent weeks and months, and perhaps explain even the recent behavior of a father fiercely defending his son? You bet it does. The Bradys have been confronted with mortality, an opponent no one ever really overcomes. We'd suggest that illness of Brady's mother has been piled on Deflategate, onto the Roger Goodell Revenge Tour, and onto the pursuit of a fifth ring. But that is getting it backwards. All of those things have been piled onto a family illness, which cannot help but make you wonder about the emotional state of the greatest quarterback who has ever played.
Tom Brady is, after all, human.
Will Brady be ready on Sunday? Of course he will. He always is. To think anything less would be to underestimate a man who has proven, more than anyone else, than he is never to be counted out, whether he was the ninth pick in the draft of the 199th. Brady will likely come out and play the game of his life on Sunday because that is who he is and that is what he does, because there has never been any quarterback in history – maybe any player – who has been better at rising to a challenge.
But if he did not – if Brady actually got derailed by the mortality and vulnerability that sits inside all of us – well, couldn't you understand that?
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