End Around: Father Time to soon test Tom Brady


Tom Brady bleeds. Consider this the first sign in over a decade that the Patriots quarterback might be, in fact, human.

Brady was a late scratch from the Patriots' preseason contest against the Bears on Thursday night for a reason other than, "Um, it's the preseason." Turns out TB12 sliced his thumb open with a pair of scissors while attempting to "pry something from the bottom of his cleat." On a related note, the guy who left that chewed piece of gum on the locker room floor is undoubtedly getting the Theon Greyjoy treatment in a Patriot Way basement right now.

I assume Patriots fans across New England held cautionary candlelight vigils and sang "Imagine" in unison through the night as Goodell conspiracy theories swirled in the heavy late-summer air. Sources close to the quarterback attempted to calm the frazzled public.

"An accident occurred and Tom will be OK in time," Brady's agent, Don Yee, said.

The "in time" part is a tad ominous, huh? Brady must have hacked that sucker up pretty good. It makes you wonder: Is this the "Russian is cut!" moment for the AFC East?

The AFC has been looking for signs of mortality from Brady for years. Bill Belichick might be a genius of his craft, but it has been Brady more than anyone who has allowed the Patriots to rule their division with an iron fist since the turn of the millennium.

Of course, fans of the other 15 AFC teams shouldn't hang too much hope on a freak locker room mishap. He has four extra weeks to get right, anyway. The true insurgent comes in the form of the only figure who can tower over an icon of Brady's stature. Father Time.

You may have heard "Father Time is undefeated." Or "You can't beat Father Time." Or "Father Time is kind of a d---." OK, I made that last one up, but you get the point. Brady turned 39 earlier this month, an age when nearly every other great practitioner of his craft was either out of the league or well on his way to a halftime Ring of Honor ceremony.

Look no further than Brady's forever rival Peyton Manning for a prime example of the ravages of time. In Manning's age-37 season, he set an NFL record with 55 touchdowns. His age-38 campaign started in a similarly dominant fashion before a quad injury took its toll. His age-39 season was the rarest of beasts: He went out a Super Bowl champion but was arguably the worst quarterback in football. Then he went home.

Other all-time greats, from Dan Marino to Joe Montana to Fran Tarkenton to Johnny Unitas were either retired or done as functioning players by the time they reached 39. John Elway was a capable supporting player on a loaded Broncos team that won back-to-back titles, but he walked away at 38.

Some examples that work in Brady's favor? Warren Moon had a big season with the 1995 Vikings at age 39 and hung around for five more years before finally quitting at 44. A 39-year-old Brett Favre led the league in interceptions in his forgotten cameo with the Jets, but came back the next year to finish fourth in MVP voting with the Vikings. He took a beating the following season and walked away at 41.

Brady, the events of Thursday night not withstanding, treats his body like a temple. If you offered him a slice of pizza, he'd probably punch you in the mouth. Perhaps more than any other player, Brady is built to play -- and thrive -- in his 40s. Maybe he's a star for five more years and becomes the roadmap for all others to follow. But history tells us the odds are against him. Favre -- as unique a player as there ever was -- is the only guy to have legitimate success at 40.

As a Jets fan, these are things you hold on to. Everyone and everything else has failed to stop Brady. Human biology is the last line of defense. As host of the Around The NFL Podcast, I've posited often in the last few months that we are due for The Tom Brady Gradual Decline Season®. It's a theory rooted in logic but always met with chuckles, derision and a dollop of pity. I'm on the side of both science and history here! Why am I treated like William Hayes on a dino-truther rant?

Which brings us back to Thursday night in the Patriots' locker room, the scene of Brady's unfortunate "Stars, they're just like us!" moment. The incident, as forgettable as it's sure to be by December, still offered something to impatient souls like me. That was a glimpse of mortality, my friends.

You see? You see! He's not a machine! He's a man! You expect Tom Brady to be great forever because Tom Brady has been great forever. But history tells us the end is near. Why are we so sure that's not the case?

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