CONSERVATIVE APPROACH WITH BRADYBy Mike Reiss
The last thing the New England Patriots need is what unfolded in the third week of the 2009 preseason when quarterback Tom Brady was driven into the turf by then-Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth. Brady reportedly played with fractured ribs from that point on.
With this in mind, one could make the case that one quarter of action should be enough for Brady on Saturday night in Detroit.
If anyone can duplicate what Haynesworth did two years ago, it's Lions All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. He already powerfully introduced himself to Brady this past Thanksgiving, and, after we saw him treat Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton like a rag doll this preseason (he was fined $20,000 for slamming Dalton into the ground), the Patriots' offensive line had better be at the top of its game Saturday.
Striking the right balance in situations like these is often a challenge.
Teams shouldn't play scared, and, when it comes to Bill Belichick's core philosophy at this time of training camp, he's generally been of the mindset that it's "go" time. The third preseason game has been the "dress rehearsal" for the regular season, when starters play into the third quarter to get a feel for what it's like to come out of the locker room at halftime. Belichick has been pushing hard this week conditioning-wise, and to pull back now, specifically with Brady, could send a mixed message.
But consider that Brady already played a full half last week against the Buccaneers -- when defenders lunging around his knees in the second quarter probably led some Patriots followers to hold their breath -- then ask, "Will one more quarter of football really make that much of a difference heading into the regular season?"
It's the classic risk-reward scenario, and one could make the case that it's smart to limit the risk, the same way Belichick did in the first week of the preseason when he sat Brady, receivers Chad Ochocinco, Wes Welker, Deion Branch, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, linebacker Jerod Mayo and cornerback Devin McCourty.
When a tough decision like this comes up, Belichick often answers by saying he does what he feels is best for the team. Conventional thinking is that top players such as Brady should go into the third quarter in the third preseason game, but, at the same time, this has been anything but a conventional year in the NFL, with the lockout and all.
The Patriots have already built up considerable momentum this preseason through two games, and if Brady and the offense look sharp in the first quarter Saturday in Detroit, one could argue that there's no reason to keep him on the field. Sometimes taking the conservative approach can be the smart approach.
KEEP BRADY ON THE FIELDBy Chris Forsberg
After spending the better part of the past month wearing a red non-contact jersey, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady welcomes the idea of a little physical abuse before the regular season arrives. Why should anyone stand in his way?
The Patriots absolutely should not limit Brady's playing time in their third exhibition game Saturday night in Detroit just because the Lions boast one of the more intriguing young defensive lines in the league.
"[Hits are] part of the preseason process," Brady said during his weekly confab with the media Wednesday. "You have guys sack you and knock you on the ground. The body can callus to the hits -- hopefully not too much. That's actually a nice thing to have happen to a quarterback."
To an extent. Brady needs only to look across the locker room to be reminded of the big hit he absorbed from new teammate Albert Haynesworth in a preseason game in Washington two years ago (reports suggested Brady broke ribs upon being driven hard into the ground and landing on his right throwing shoulder).
And, yes, we all remember Thanksgiving Day 2010, when Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who has already been fined this preseason for a hit on Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton, rag-dolled Brady to the ground in the opening minutes of that game.
But here's the thing: It's usually when you try hardest to avoid injury that harm actually happens. The Patriots need to have confidence in their offensive line to protect Brady and understand that a couple of trips to the turf might not be a bad thing for No. 12.
And, while acknowledging that the young tandem of Suh and Nick Fairley has big-time potential, let's also remember that we're talking about the Detroit Lions here. The same Lions that boast an 8-40 record over the past three seasons. This isn't the 1984 Bears and their NFL-record 72 sacks that year.
Most importantly, this is the third preseason game of the year for New England, the one generally regarded as the most important. Having already sat out the Patriots' exhibition opener earlier this month, Brady is in the process of ramping up his activity. He played a half in Tampa last week, and expectations would be for him to play into the second half Saturday in Detroit. It might be his final action of the exhibition slate.
Let's face it, Brady is going to get hit this season. The risk of injury is always there. But the Patriots should never let that potential risk alter their strategy. That's when injuries occur.