THE SPORTS DOCTOR- NFL loves Brady: Some players more special than others

Tom Brady takes the cake.

If you're one of those people who watch the NFL for the action, come fall, you may have to look somewhere else for your kicks. On the other hand, if you're one of those people who think the NFL is too violent, this coming season may be one for you. A couple of weeks ago, NFL owners clarified an existing player safety rule, and by doing so let the players know who is special and who isn't.

At the center of the NFL's  newfound munificence is Stetson man Tom Brady. In last year's season opener, the Patriot quarterback sustained ACL and MCL tears in his left knee when being tackled by Kansas City safety Bernard Pollard. Imagine the NFL's horror when they realized their ersatz George Clooney was done for the season. Not only was the league out their matinee idol moneymaker, their chance of cashing in on supermodel appearances dropped to almost nil. It's enough to make a grown man cry.

Far be it from me to criticize improved safety measures in football, but there's a reason the new rule unofficially bears Tom Brady's name. The rule, as it is now written, prohibits defenders who are knocked to the ground from lunging into a quarterback's lower legs, which coincidentally, is exactly the kind of tackle that sidelined Brady last season. 

Bears' quarterback Rex Grossman, who, due to injuries, played only eight games during his first three years in the NFL, didn't have the looks or the arm to warrant the league's attention after sustaining a season-ending knee injury in 2004. Poor Grossman; he just wasn't "special" enough, but Tom Brady, well that's a whole other ball of wax.

"It's like if Peyton Manning were gone for a season," Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the Boston Globe. "I think the whole NFL suffers, the same way the NFL suffered with Tommy out. It's not good for the league. What makes it special is special players. It's like going to see a great movie, and the star isn't in the movie. It's the same principle."

So when Tom Brady fell to the ground screaming last season, the NFL had to take action and come hell or high water, they were going to protect the Brad Pitts of the gridiron. So what if the game suffers? So what if quarterbacks get another unfair advantage? It's all in the interest of safety, right?

Forgive my sounding like a valley girl, but as if.

Are we really supposed to believe a league that churns out concussions and spinal cord injuries by the ton has suddenly grown a conscience? Back in 2003, Department of Labor reported that the NFL's injury rate was nearly eight times higher than any other professional sport, even hockey. In 2006, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review asserted the NFL's injury rate was 68% and from 2000-2003, NFL players racked up 6,558 injuries. What kind of trauma constitutes the bulk of these injuries? I'll give you one guess.

The big hits add up to 27 categories of reported injuries that players have suffered over the past four years, from abdominal tears to broken wrists, according to the weekly NFL injury reports. Tops of the pops: knee injuries, which range from broken knee bones to severe rips in the ligaments. Over the past four years, 1,205 players [...] have suffered knee injuries. Knee trauma accounts for nearly one out of six injuries in the NFL, affecting every position nearly equally. –Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

That report came out three years ago, but evidently the NFL didn't read it. Though all players are nearly equally injured at the knee, only quarterbacks are protected, and it didn't start with this "Brady Rule." When Tom Brady sustained his injury last year, he was already in the NFL's protective bubble. As a quarterback, Brady couldn't be struck above the shoulders and he couldn't be tackled below the knees- the rules of football had already been stretched to protect him, but it wasn't enough.

Undoubtedly, this latest incarnation of a quarterback's invisible shield still isn't enough to keep the "special" players safe. What the NFL seems to forget is that this is football. It's a defender's job to stop the guy with the ball. Certainly, some safety measures are imperative– but let's be realistic.

If safety were the NFL's main concern, no player would be sent back on the field after snapping his neck on the ground, and marrying a supermodel wouldn't make one player more "special" than another.