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Brady's Injury a Huge Blow For Patriots

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Brady's Injury a Huge Blow For Patriots

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Brady's Injury a Huge Blow For Patriots

Brady's Injury a Huge Blow For Patriots

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New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady has suffered an apparent season-ending knee injury. Losing Brady is a huge blow for the Patriots, who stampeded through the NFL undefeated last season until a stunning Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Now to the very different troubles of another pro-football standout. Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots and the league's reigning MVP, was hurt yesterday. It was the first quarter of the first game of the season. And in news sure to make New England fans tear out their hair, Brady will miss the rest of the year. NPR's Mike Pesca reports.

MIKE PESCA: Last season, with less than a minute to play in the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots were in front and in line to complete a perfect season. In the seven months they've had to analyze what went wrong, the one part of their team that never came into question was their quarterback, Tom Brady. You had also asked for the complete name of the motorcycle with the sidecar in the Tour Center along with its color.

Brady had thrown a record 50 touchdowns in 2007 and simply transcended football. He appeared on gossip pages, endorsed luxury watches, and dated super models. Or, as the super model said, wow, we dated Tom Brady.

Eight minutes into the 2008 season, the Patriots' pillar crumbled. Here's the call on Kansas City Radio Station 101, the Fox.

Unidentified Man: Brady is hurt! He's down on the leg. He got whacked just as he threw that football. And it sure looks like a knee injury.

PESCA: The Patriots confirmed today that Brady tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and will be lost for the season. Maybe there's one other player, Peyton Manning, who's as crucial to his team's success as Tom Brady is, says Aaron Schatz, author of "The Pro Football Prospectus."

Mr. AARON SCHATZ (Author, "Pro Football Prospectus"): Well, Tom Brady is one of the two best players in the NFL, and the drop in quality from him to his backup is probably the biggest or second biggest drop in quality between a player and his backup in the NFL.

PESCA: Aside from being a researcher, Schatz is a New Englander and a Patriots fan, but he looks at the evidence and finds there is not much to recommend the new New England quarterback, Matt Cassel.

Mr. SCHATZ: We do know that he looked awful in the preseason this year. We know he looked awful when he came in against Miami last year. We know he was average when he played a game where he basically played the whole game against Miami two years ago. And we know this is a guy who has not started a game since high school.

PESCA: Yes. Before Cassel backed up two Heisman Trophy-winning QBs at USC, his last start was for the Chancellors of Chatsworth High School. In his junior year, he led Chatsworth to a Los Angeles city title. But in his final as a senior, yet another loss in a losing season, Cassel completed only three of eleven passes for 46 yards.

Today, on Boston radio station WEEI, Cassel acknowledged that his credentials might give some fans pause.

Mr. MATT CASSEL (Quarterback, New England Patriots): A lot of people are wondering, you know, this guy doesn't have a lot of experience; he didn't have a lot of experience in college. How does he keep making the team?

PESCA: Las Vegas didn't spend time wondering. Overnight, the sports book at the station casinos downgraded the Patriots' chances of winning the Super Bowl from 2-to-1 to 15-to-1.

But maybe the knee injury inspired a knee-jerk reaction. The Patriots still have the easiest schedule in the NFL. They still have a good defense, and their coaching staff is recognized as the craftiest in the league. They'll have to be. Like when Alfred Hitchcock killed off Janet Lee in the first reel of psycho, this blow was totally unexpected.

It only adds to the intrigue - agonizing, dispiriting intrigue from a Patriots' fan perspective, but intrigue none the less to an NFL season that has shifted dramatically just as it begins.

Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York.

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