If Tom Brady did not suffer a concussion last year, and if he has not had concussions in previous years, why did his wife say that he had?
I know. The interview with Gisele Bundchen that provoked that question happened several news cycles ago.
But perhaps the “she says-they say” featuring Bundchen vs. the New England Patriots and the National Football League shouldn’t be allowed to fade away so quickly.
Because if Tom Brady’s wife is right — and I can’t think of any reason she’d say her husband had suffered concussions if she didn’t think it was true — the New England Patriots and the NFL have a problem. So do lots of players.
This is not to suggest that Tom Brady doesn’t have a problem. He might. But concussions and sub-concussive hits are sneaky. Whatever problems he may have as a result of getting hit in the head may not start to bother him profoundly for years. That’s part of the reason the NFL could get away with denying any relationship between getting hit in the head a lot and evidence of cognitive impairment years after the hitting had stopped.
But the problem for the Patriots and for the league — that would be evident today. Because if Tom Brady has suffered concussions and successfully hidden that fact from everyone but his wife, the concussion protocol the NFL has celebrated is a sham. And if Brady has suffered concussions and the Patriots know about it and haven’t reported the concussion or concussions, the protocol is a sham. And if the league knows that Brady has suffered a concussion or concussions and hasn’t acknowledged it, the protocol is a sham.
A lot of fans won’t care about that. They’ve made their peace with the game. They’ve decided adults have the right to choose a profession in which brain damage is a frequent consequence.
But probably some fans became more comfortable with pro football when they were assured by the NFL that instituting that concussion protocol would significantly decrease the likelihood of that consequence.
What if the protocol didn’t do that? What if players are as likely to hide concussions from their coaches as they were before they were belatedly advised of the long-term consequences of failing to allow their brains to recover? What if teams are as likely as ever to fudge the data when honest reporting would mean a key player would sit out games? What if — with regard to player safety — the league itself is still as irresponsible as it was during the days when it employed doctors to testify that there was no connection between head injuries and brain damage?
Wouldn’t that be a problem that extends far beyond the future health of one player and the curious matter of why his wife would say during a TV interview that he’d suffered concussions if he hadn’t?
This segment aired on May 26, 2017.