Sports your connection to The Boston Globe

Brady inspires tough love

FOXBOROUGH -- We measure toughness by GTM -- the Grogan Toughness Meter.

You won't find too many QBs past or present any tougher than old No. 14 Steve Grogan, who played 16 years for the Patriots with neck injuries, broken bones, and myriad pulls and strains. He was the ultimate spit-on-it-and-go-back-out-there football player. John Hannah calls him the toughest guy he ever played with.

We bring this up because it is Week 4 of the NFL season and the Patriots reported 10 injuries, nine to starters, on their Wednesday injury report. The least severe is Tom Brady, listed as probable, which means there's a 75 percent chance he'll play.

Might as well make it 100.

Brady wasn't throwing early in practice yesterday, apparently resting his right elbow, which was swollen the size of a grapefruit after the Philadelphia game in Week 2 and roughed up again last Sunday against the Jets. Damon Huard and Rohan Davey took the majority of reps. Unless Brady's arm is incapacitated, he will start against the Redskins in Washington Sunday. He is beginning to register on the GTM.

"I feel fine," said Brady, asked how he felt yesterday compared with a week ago. "I don't even remember last Wednesday."

Brady has avoided major injury at all levels. He was never hurt at Serra High in San Mateo, Calif., and the only major injury he suffered at the University of Michigan was a concussion.

He spent his rookie year bulking up in the Patriots' strength and conditioning program, and by his second training camp, Brady had surpassed Huard on the depth chart as No. 2. When Drew Bledsoe got hurt in Week 2 . . . well, in the words of Paul Harvey, you know the rest of the story.

Last season, he separated his throwing shoulder in the third quarter of the season finale against Miami. He spent the entire offseason rehabilitating, even suffering a setback at one point, but showed no signs of the injury in the exhibition season, throwing no interceptions and six touchdown passes.

But he never acknowledged being 100 percent, and as one offensive player said, "[The shoulder] still bothers him a little bit."

A Globe photograph after the 31-10 win over the Eagles revealed the elbow was grossly swollen. Fluid was drained during the week. Yet his name did not appear on the injury list. He took limited throwing reps in practice. He took a nasty hit from Jets linebacker Sam Cowart in the second quarter and came off the field with his arm dangling. The Patriots medical team worked it over between series, and sure enough he came back and threw a difficult sideline throw with some zip, and then played the remainder of the game.

Grogan will be the first to tell you that a team looks to its quarterback for leadership and to set a tone. It is why so many Patriots players at the time felt it was an injustice that Tony Eason started ahead of Grogan in the 1986 Super Bowl.

To explain GTM a little better, here's a partial list of Grogan's ailments: five knee surgeries; screws in his leg after the tip of his fibula snapped; a cracked fibula that snapped when he tried to practice; two ruptured disks in his neck, which he played with for 1 1/2 seasons; a broken left hand (he simply handed off with his right hand); two separated shoulders on each side; the reattachment of a tendon to his throwing elbow; and three concussions ("I lost parts of my life," he said.)

"I tried to play like I was a football player and not just a quarterback," Grogan said. "If I had to deliver a blow, I'd deliver a blow. If I had to run and take the hit, I'd take the hit."

After Bledsoe went down in 2001, veterans rallied around Brady, giving him the confidence to run the offense and keep the team afloat. Now the team is looking to Brady for that leadership in return.

"He's a tough guy, but he has to be," said Patriots left tackle Matt Light. "I think you have to be tough and play with pain if you're a quarterback and Tom does that."

It's not that Brady has a lot of reference points when it comes to injuries.

"It's a built-in excuse sometimes, but this team isn't into built-in excuses," Brady said. "Listen, I've been very lucky. You look at a guy like Brett Favre. He just hasn't sustained any lingering injuries. He's been injured, but obviously not bad enough where he hasn't been able to go out and play."

How does Brady acquire the GTM to persevere at a position where he's going to take his licks, especially since teams know his elbow and right shoulder are vulnerable?

"In a team sport you don't want to let anybody down," said Brady. "You think, God, if this guy is hurt . . . like Damien Woody and Joe Andruzzi, those are the two toughest guys in the locker room. They play every single week. So it's like if they're going out there . . .. [Mike] Compton played six weeks and now they've got a cast on his foot. If he can do it, then it's time for me to step up and do it, too."

In a self-deprecating moment, Brady said, "There aren't many things for me to hurt. There's no muscles to tear. I don't have hamstring problems, I don't run fast enough. I just fall the right way. Being limber, my body can contort in different ways. Tedy Bruschi is like that."

Grogan says Brady is handling things perfectly, calling him a "good kid, a tough kid. As a quarterback everyone is looking to him. If you treat yourself any differently than anyone else, especially when it comes to injuries, you're going to be looked at differently."

As much as he wants to blend in (he continues to do his Wednesday press conference at his locker rather than the podium), Brady is the focal point of all-things Patriot in a quarterback-driven league.

If Brady succumbs to his injuries, the team will likely do so as well. The team concept is a major reason the Patriots won the Super Bowl, but if Brady is lost, that would be difficult to overcome.

Which is why his GTM is high and the respect for him in the locker room has never been more sincere.

Globe Archives Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months