There is a popular phrase that goes "everything is bigger in Texas". When speaking in NFL terms, the same phrase would read "everything is bigger in New England". After all, the New England Patriots are the most successful franchise of this century, having won five Super Bowls. They have also become the most polarizing team in pro football.
As such, stories that would receive little to no attention if other organizations were involved, regularly become national story lines.
Over the course of the few years there have been multiple examples of this. The New York Giants’ illegally using walkie talkies on the sidelines, for instance, received little to no attention compared to Deflategate. By NFL and some media standards, though, obeying the laws of physics is a far greater crime than potentially gaining a significant advantage during games.
Unfortunately, though, facts and accurate reporting oftentimes matter less than a saucy headline or potentially damning story. Yesterday’s report that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady – as his wife told CBS This Morning – suffered "a concussion last year" also received initial media buzz, especially considering that the reigning Super Bowl MVP was never listed on an injury report because of a concussion.
Of course, "last year" is a rather broad term. Brady could have very well sustained a concussion during a time when the NFL does not require its teams to release injury data, like training camp or the preseason. Without further details being disclosed, every interpretation of "last year" is subject to speculation.
Some details, though, were released by the NFL through the league’s Vice President of Communications, Brian McCarthy:
We have reviewed all reports relating to Tom Brady from the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants and certified athletic trainer spotters who worked at Patriots' home and away 2016 season games as well as club injury reports that were sent to the league office.
There are no records that indicate that Mr. Brady suffered a head injury or concussion, or exhibited or complained of concussion symptoms. Today we have been in contact with the NFLPA and will work together to gather more information from the club's medical staff and Mr. Brady. The health and safety of our players is our foremost priority and we want to ensure that all our players have and continue to receive the best care possible.
The statement basically confirms what has already been known: During the season, when teams are required to list players on the injury report, Brady was not reported to have suffered a concussion. Neither the team's medical director and his staff nor the independent concussion spotters employed by the NFL placed Brady in the concussion protocol.
This leaves a few potential scenarios, ranging from the concussion happening prior to the regular season to sloppy work by medial personnel to – get your tinfoil hats ready – nefarious action by the team. As noted above, though, every follow-up analysis is based purely on speculation when considering the facts reported.
At the end of the day, the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe put it best: "The true thing that should come of this is a continued and raised awareness that the NFL concussion protocol has lots of room for growth." Until further information becomes available, this should be the story's bottom line – and not any conspiracy theories or finger pointing.