In our lifetimes, we've been fortunate to witness some incredible stories of athletes playing through devastating pain, injury and illness. Inspirational tales of the indomitable human spirit overcoming physical adversity to triumph. Of mind over matter.
Tiger Woods winning the 2008 US Open with a broken leg. Michael Jordan climbing out of his sick bed to up 38 points in a 1995 Finals game. Curt Schilling winning Game 6 of the ALCS bleeding through his sock after an experimental surgery. Kerri Strug sticking her landing to win gold for Team USA in 2000. Ronnie Lott in the 1995 playoffs with a crushed finger that was later amputated. Gregory Campbell finishing his shift for the Bruins after a slapshot shattered his leg. The only Boston Marathon winner anyone can name without looking it up is Uta Pippig, who finished first despite the poop and menstrual fluid that was streaming down her legs all the way up Boylston St.
Though, with all due respect to those intrepid souls who refused to quit and willed their bodies to ignore the pain and keep going, it's one thing to play a tournament, a game, a shift or a race with a severe injury. It's quite another to do it for an entire season. But that's what we just experienced last fall and winter.
Source - Tom Brady led the Bucs to a Super Bowl 55 victory at age 43 during a pandemic, becoming the first quarterback to win a title in his team’s home stadium.
But the legend only grows from there.
Brady did it while playing with a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee that he suffered in his final season with the Patriots.
The injury gradually worsened during his first year with the Bucs, and he finally had surgery to repair it in late February after winning his seventh Super Bowl. …
The Super Bowl MVP … had acknowledged that the injury occurred before taking his first snap with the Bucs in training camp last year.
So that would mean Brady went through all of training camp, the preseason, 16 regular season games and four postseason games, - 1,298 snaps in official game action and possibly more than that in practices - with a torn MCL in his left knee. Taking 3-, 5- and 7-step drops, scrambling, evading pressure, running (he had 39 attempts with four touchdowns) and taking hits, all with a bum wheel that would've sidelined any other QB.
At the age of 43, no less. How many times have you heard an athlete say that the hard part about getting old isn't that you slow down, it's that it gets harder and harder to bounce back from injury? (As a side note, I can tell you it's the same way with hangovers.) And yet this medical marvel didn't miss a play. And instead of posting a stat line of all zeros, as any quarterback north of 40 should have, he was the Newton (Isaac, not Cam) who invented this calculus:
What else could we expect, I suppose? This is, after all, the superhuman who a few years ago engineered a 4th quarter comeback victory against the No. 1 defense in the league with a thumb that had nearly gotten ripped from his throwing hand in that week's practice:
After all, this is kind of his thing. The most remarkable part of Brady's career that we're all guilty of taking for granted is the way he never misses a snap due to injury. He lost all but one quarter of the 2008 when he caught a severe case of what in New England is known as Bernard Pollard Syndrome. But other than that, the only time he's come out of a game because he's hurt was the AFC championship game … in the 2001 season. And here is just a tiny fraction of the list of issues he's played through:
Maybe Brady is onto something with his weird, pseudoscience fitness regimen of resistance band workouts and gross diet of alkalizing, anti-inflammatory pseudofoods. Perhaps the key to immortality is pliability. Or possibly, from that time someone rolled on his ankle at Pittsburgh in January of 2002 and Drew Bledsoe had to finish the game, Ernie Adams started gradually replacing all his body parts with bionics. Regardless of how he's managed to play through medical calamities, it's the most underappreciated, criminally overlooked part of his unfathomable career.
Now imagine how good he'll be this year, with two healthy knees. The rest of the NFC East might just want to see if opt outs are still available in 2021.