When Tom Brady got hurt -- when Tom Brady was injured -- a half a quarter into the 2008 season, we knew. We knew right away.
The first jarring clue that something had gone wrong was the scream heard on the CBS broadcast as the camera focused on the football floating downfield to Randy Moss.
You hear a lot of things during an NFL broadcast -- pads crashing together, fans cheering, analysts sharing insights and spouting inanities.
But screaming -- that's fairly unfamiliar unless Gus Johnson is involved.
The replay, of course, showed us who was screaming and why, and it was nothing a Patriots fan ever wanted to see again. Hell, it was nothing a Patriots fan wanted to see once.
Bernard Pollard, then an obscure Chiefs safety but one who would make a habit of being on the scene when things went wrong for the Patriots, plunged his helmet into Brady's left knee.
The replay showed a knee bent at an angle that doesn't happen without destruction. Even as he walked off the field, assisted by trainers, then down the stairs to the locker room, we knew. We wouldn't see him for a while, perhaps for the rest of the season. Which is exactly how it played out. The anticipated follow-up season to 2007's joy/disaster was set up to be a consolation prize before it even began.
It's a reminder why the NFL is my least-favorite pro sport. One injury can change everything to a degree that it's impossible to overcome.
I bring this up now, reluctantly, because ... because we're all sitting here waiting to exhale, that's why. You've heard the news, staying atop of each update as the details trickle out with your fingers crossed and unwanted visions of Ryan Mallett and Tim Tebow playing meaningful snaps clouding your head.
Brady left practice against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with an apparent but thus far vague injury to his left leg. He went down, clutched his knee, returned, then disappeared.
At first, it didn't sound particularly alarming other than the fact that it happened to Tom Brady, who is as irreplaceable as irreplaceable gets across the entire spectrum of professional sports.
He grabbed his left leg after an incomplete pass to Aaron Dobson. Few saw what happened to Brady because they were doing what we did during the opener five years ago, what we all do watching football -- keeping an eye on the ball.
Brady left the field, returned to complete three passes, then conferred with Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels before heading to the practice bubble, presumably to get the leg checked out.
I don't know what you thought upon hearing the first trickle of news, but here's what I thought: He threw three more passes. It can't be that bad. He's just being cautious. Brady will be fine.
Then we saw the video, captured by fan Chad Kopcak, and the potential exhale morphed into a oh-bleep gasp:
We don't know how badly Tom Brady is injured. Maybe he's just hurt, and today's events will be forgotten in a week's time. But watching him rock back and forth on the ground, clutching his knee after Nate Solder was bullrushed ... well, here's hoping for the best. At least Bernard Pollard is nowhere to be found.
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About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.