Author Jeff Benedict explores the greatest modern sports empire of our time, the brand-new England Patriots, in his upcoming book “The Dynasty,” i beg your pardon releases Tuesday. This excerpt is from thing 42, “Threading the Needle,” which highlights QB Tom Brady’s hand injury leading right into the Jan. 21, 2018, AFC Championship game.
On the Wednesday before the AFC Championship game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Patriots were practicing outside in the bitter cold. ~ above a program play, Brady handed the round off to running ago Rex Burkhead. In the exchange, the ball jammed ago into Brady’s thumb, hyperextending it v such pressure that the skin in ~ the basic of the thumb break-up open. Through blood gushing, Brady let out a yell and rushed turn off the field, clutching his hand. Burkhead and also his team members looked on in stunned silence.
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Minutes later, Dr. Matthew Leibman’s cell phone rang. Leibman to be the hand and wrist surgeon because that the Patriots, Red Sox, and Bruins. That was having lunch exterior Boston as soon as Patriots assistant trainer Joe valve Allen got to him.
Van Allen was frantic. “Matt, we need you at the stadium ideal now,” he said. “Brady ache his hand. The bad. The bleeding.”
“What happened?” Leibman said.
Van Allen quickly described that Brady’s thumb had somehow acquired jammed and bent backward throughout a handoff. “There’s a pretty big laceration,” he said.
“Is the his throw hand?” Leibman said.
Van Allen claimed he’d text a picture.
Leibman hung up. Secs later, the picture was on his phone. The looked together though Brady’s hand had actually been slashed by a blade. The base of his ignorance was split large open. The laceration was gaping.
“Holy s–t!” Leibman claimed to himself.
In 99 percent of the instances where a hyperextended thumb results in a gaping laceration, there is additionally a fracture or dislocation involved. And the basic ligaments and also tendons space inevitably damaged as well.
Confident the Brady required surgery, he called Van Allen back. “Does Tom just want to satisfy me in ~ the hospital?” Leibman said. “Because we may go straight to the OR.”
Van Allen stated that the team really wanted him to evaluate Brady at the stadium. “Get here as fast as you can,” valve Allen said.
“I’m on mine way,” Leibman said. “Give me fifteen minutes.”
Leibman flew under the highway, confident the if he gained pulled over every he’d have to do was tell the police officer, “Brady’s bleeding and waiting because that me.” His bigger concern was the unnerving proposition that what he was about to do: run on the throwing hand the the greatest quarterback of all time on the cusp of the AFC Championship game.
Distraught and awaiting the results of his X-ray, Brady lay on a stretcher in the medical treatment room in ~ Gillette Stadium, his right arm outstretched, his hand wrapped in a towel. He fear his career to be over, and also his eye welled up.
Alex Guerrero stood beside Brady’s head. Guerrero was worried, however he do the efforts to comfort Brady.
Scowling, Belichick stood off to Brady’s side, beside trainer Jim Whalen.
Dr. Mark Price, the team head doctor and chief orthopedic surgeon, stand opposite Belichick come Brady’s right.
The room was eerily silent once Dr. Leibman entered.
“Hi, everybody,” Leibman said. “How’s anyone doing?”
No one responded.
“The good news is I simply looked at the X-rays and they’re clean,” Leibman said. “There’s no fracture and also there shows up to it is in no dislocation.”
Still nobody spoke.
Leibman sat under on a stool next to Brady and also explained the he necessary to study his hand. Leibman gotten rid of the towel and also looked at the wound. It was deep enough that he can see down to the bone and tendon. Brady grimaced as Leibman gently touched his thumb.
“It looks prefer the ligaments and the bone and also the tendons room structurally intact,” Liebman told Brady. Leibman turned come Belichick and the trainer. “I’m really surprised. Normally with a laceration prefer this, the bones acquire pulled in a way that lock either break or you tear a ligament.” The stress in the room remained palpable.
This is a hyperextension loading injury bring about a skin burst. The reality that there’s no fracture or dislocation is amazing. — Dr. Matthew Leibman
“Guys, you nothing understand,” Leibman said. “This is a hyperextension loading injury resulting in a skin burst. The truth that there’s no fracture or dislocation is amazing.”
Leibman explained how rare it is to watch someone endure together a high-energy injury without damage to the bone or dislocation. V all the hype about Brady’s pliability thanks to the TB12 Method, Leibman figured he’d lighten the mood by express it. Looking in ~ Guerrero, the said, “I guess it’s since Tom’s ignorance is therefore …” then he glanced in ~ Belichick and also figured pliable wasn’t the best word choice. “Flexible,” that said.
Belichick glared in ~ Brady.
No one smiled.
The only thing Brady cared around was even if it is he had actually a shooting at playing on Sunday. Leibman described the realities of the situation: The video game was four days away. Brady’s hand needed surgery. ~ the procedure, skin bring away a good eight to 10 days to seal. If Brady were to autumn on his hand or get hit top top his thumb throughout that period, the operation wound would certainly blow open.
A discussion ensued about things they can do to defend his hand.
Dr. Price chimed in that one more Patriots player had actually previously play in a game after acquiring stitches for a hand laceration. To Belichick, the instance wasn’t comparable.
“Tom’s the quarterback,” the groused.
“We’ll have to take it work by day and also make a game-time decision ~ above Sunday,” Leibman told everyone.
Without saying a word come Brady, Belichick left the room. Whalen followed. Guerrero continued to be with Brady when Leibman perform the procedure. Dr. Price assisted.
Telling himself, This is just one more hand, Leibman prepared to run on Brady through numbing his thumb with many injections. Climate Leibman irrigated the area about the bone and tendon, removing any kind of grass or dust particles from the wound. As soon as it came time come realign Brady’s skin and also sew him up, Leibman told Brady he to be going to usage a bigger caliber that thread 보다 he would ordinarily use, since he knew the arrangement was to try to enable Brady to play in 4 days. Because that extra strength, he also used 25 sutures sewn in a crisscross pattern for maximum support.
After the procedure, Leibman pull Brady’s hand and also applied a splint. Then he looked at Brady and Guerrero. “Right now, the worry is that the ignorance is going come get very swollen and painful,” he told him. “So you can’t do any kind of of her massage. You can’t do any type of of your mobilization. We desire to immobilize. Everything you do, don’t remove the splint.”
Brady figured his season was over.
Leibman arranged for him to have an MRI later on in the day simply so he could be sure that there was no underlying damage to the joint.
As Leibman prepared to leave, Rex Burkhead gone into the room with tears in his eyes.
“It’s not your fault,” Brady called him.
Burkhead to be inconsolable.
“Don’t worry,” Brady called him together he placed an arm around him. “I love you.”
After Burkhead left, attack coordinator josh McDaniels and also backup quarterback Brian Hoyer entered.
Dr. Price gave McDaniels the prognosis.
McDaniels turned to Hoyer and also said, “You much better get f—kin’ ready.”
At 3:18 p.m., the Patriots announced: “Tom Brady is through our medical staff and will not be obtainable to the media today.”
Belichick was infamous for remaining tight-lipped about player injuries. In this instance, it to be particularly an essential to store a lid top top Brady’s situation. ~ above the exterior chance that Brady played on Sunday, Belichick didn’t desire the Jaguars come realize the he was vulnerable, particularly in his cram hand.
By 6:00 p.m., longtime Patriots win writer Karen Guregian tweeted, “Tom Brady jammed his cram hand at practice after accidentally being operation into, according to a source. X-ray showed no structure damage.” Thirty minutes later, NFL Insider Ian Rapoport tweeted, “This is mine understanding, together well. Sound manageable.”
By evening, ESPN’s Mike Reiss tweeted, “Source close to Brady: ‘Hand must be OK.’ ” and the Boston Herald reported the Brady was intended to beat on Sunday “barring an unanticipated setback.”
On Thursday morning, Dr. Leibman reviewed Brady’s MRI. It confirmed that the bone hadn’t to be broken and that the ligaments to be intact. However, the imaging revealed swelling at the share or basic of the thumb, indicating the the limit of the injury went past a negative laceration. Leibman drove come Brady’s residence later the morning to comment on the MRI. Once he arrived, he found Brady had actually ignored his instructions: the splint had actually been removed, and also Brady to be gripping a football. And also Guerrero was v him.
“I think ns okay,” Brady called Leibman.
“Listen, Tom,” Leibman said. “We must let this rest. Us don’t have actually that countless days.” Exasperated, Leibman climate looked in ~ Guerrero. It was absolutely critical, that said, that Brady stay the splint and also keep his ignorance immobilized. “Don’t mess v it,” the said.
“Matt, don’t worry,” Guerrero said him. “We acquired it.”
That afternoon, Brady attended practice in full pads, however he didn’t participate. His team members told reporters Brady “looked good.” when he skipped his media conference again, however, speculation placed that his injury can be much more serious than had originally to be thought. “It’s no a large deal at all,” insisted Stephen A. Smith on ESPN. “It’s a waste of time. It’s a bogus story.”
On Friday morning, Boston radio and television station reported that Brady got 4 stitches. The Patriots listed Brady as “questionable” because that Sunday’s video game on the team’s main injury report. Then Belichick organized his weekly press conference. Asked around Brady’s condition for Sunday, the said: “It’s Friday.”
A brief while later, Brady gone into the media room put on a glove over his hurt hand. The very first question he challenged was, “How’s your hand?”
“Not talking around it,” he said.
“Thumbs increase or thumbs under for Sunday?” a reporter asked.
“We’ll see,” he said.
“What exactly happened ~ above Wednesday?”
“I’m no talking around it.”
With Guerrero in ~ his side, Brady visited the Patriots’ indoor practice facility recognized as “the bubble” and also threw. The much more he threw, the an ext he ended up being convinced the he could play top top Sunday.
When Brady called Leibman about his progress, Leibman called him: “Don’t throw! you don’t must throw.”
“I to be just experimentation it out,” Brady said.
“Stop experimentation it,” Leibman said. “We’ll test it on Sunday.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars were an upstart team trying to finish a Cinderella season. Loaded through young talent, the Jaguars’ defense was ranked No. 1 in the AFC. 6 of its protective players were pro Bowlers. Days before Brady hurt his thumb, CBS had actually asked actor man Malkovich to film a commercial teasing the game. In the commercial, was standing in prior of one orchestra at the new England Conservatory the Music, Malkovich tossed beside the script and told the director: “You’ve overcomplicated this story. This is one of the simplest, earliest stories over there is.
“It is the story of David matches Goliath,” that continued, his voice climbing in concert v the violins and bass strings. “The story the the mighty giant against the small underdog. And also yet, what does football teach us? You always have a chance. Look at what … the Jaguars did only last weekend. … yet now it’s versus the Patriots. You space fighting a giant.
“They don’t have actually one Goliath,” Malkovich railed. “They space two Goliaths. Brady! Belichick! Relentlessly! THE an equipment … STOMPS … ON! It’s that simple.”
But the wasn’t nearly that straightforward this time. Just 4 days ~ a surgical treatment on his throwing thumb that took 25 stitches come close, Brady to be compromised. The was likewise still in a most pain. On video game day, Leibman can have provided him a shot come numb up the area approximately the wound, yet Brady declined, saying he didn’t want to perform anything that would certainly limit his feel for the ball. The Patriots, meanwhile, insisted the Leibman be on the sideline in the occasion that Brady split open his hand and also treatment to be required throughout the game.
About five minutes before kickoff, Brady walked right into the clinical training room nearby to the locker room, whereby Leibman to be laying the end his instruments.
Startled, Leibman stopped what he was doing.
Brady close up door the door behind him, attracted the blinds, and also took a seat on a stool. Climate he rest his chin ~ above the cultivate table. Staring ahead v a diabolical gaze, he prolonged his arm across the table, opened his hand, and also calmly said: “Will friend trim the tails of the sutures? i don’t desire them emotional the ball.”
Bewildered, Leibman satellite on a stool on the other side of the table and also faced him. The game was around to start. Anyone else was already on the field.
“Tom, i don’t want to touch the sutures.”
Brady defined that he didn’t favor the feeling of the suture tails pushing against the bandage and also pressing against the ball once he gripped it.
“Tom, mine biggest concern is that the sutures room going to unravel and also it’s walking to break-up open.”
“I to trust you,” Brady said.
“I yes, really don’t want to touch them.”
“You need to do it.”
It was a negotiation that Leibman knew he to be losing. He reached for a pair of suture scissors and also peeled back the bandage over Brady’s wound.
“Tom, us really shouldn’t carry out this,” he said.
“No, you should do it.”
There were two minutes to kickoff.
One by one, Leibman delicately snipped a millimeter off about twenty sutures top top the exterior that the wound. Then he redressed Brady’s wound.
Brady stood and also gripped his ball. That felt much better.
“Thanks, buddy,” that said.
“Good luck, Tom.”
Brady to walk out, his cleat click-clacking together he headed to the field.
On the Patriots’ opening drive, Brady threw 6 passes and also completed all of them. He ran the ball once and got popped. He additionally got sacked. On the sideline, Leibman winced, specifically when among Brady’s linemen helped him increase by gripping his cram hand and pulling him to his feet. Yet Brady never ever flinched.
After the Patriots took a 3–0 lead, the Jaguars’ defense shut them down, delivering one large hit ~ another. Then, v the Patriots rolling 14–3, plunder Gronkowski extended out in an attempt to catch a pass and took a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit. The play drew a personal-foul penalty for unnecessary roughness. And Gronkowski experienced a concussion and also was shed for the game. It was beginning to appear that Goliath to be going down.
In the 2nd half, points didn’t enhance for the Patriots. The Jaguars held a certain 20–10 lead v a tiny over twelve minutes continuing to be in the 4th quarter. Every the Jaguars had to do was prevent Brady one much more time and also muster a pair of an initial downs on violation to put the game away. But on the Patriots’ next possession, it take it Brady much less than 4 minutes to drive the size of the field, completing 5 passes, 3 of which checked out Danny Amendola. The third one, a 9-yard touchdown strike, cut the result in 20–17.
Two minutes later, the Jaguars punted. Climate the Patriots punted. Climate the Jaguars punted again. ~ a huge return by Amendola, the Patriots had the round on the Jaguars’ 30-yard line v 4:58 to play. 2 minutes later, Brady zinged a spiral over the outstretched eight of 2 defenders top top the score line towards Amendola, that was streaking across the earlier of the finish zone while gift chased by two more defenders. Leaping while twisting his top body backward versus his front momentum, that snatched the ball out the the air, regulating to gain his former foot down and also then the toes that his second foot prior to falling the end of bounds.
Gillette stadium erupted. Brady’s pinpoint pass and Amendola’s acrobatic capture had offered the Patriots a 24–20 lead. For the 11th time in a playoff game, Brady had actually orchestrated a game-winning journey in the 4th quarter or overtime. Yet this time he’d excellent it at period 40 through 25 sutures holding his thumb together. It to be the type of performance that would have actually been the specifying moment because that virtually any type of other quarterback. Yet for Brady, many thanks in large part come the secrecy shrouding the size of his injury, it would go down as just one more one of many good feats.
As the final seconds ~ above the video game clock ticked down, Belichick triumphantly elevated his arms on the sideline. Brady, through a black color bandage ~ above his cram hand, simultaneously raised his arms. Despite injury, controversy, strife, media scrutiny, and also another seemingly insurmountable fourth-quarter deficit, Belichick and also Brady were headed to the Super bowl for the eighth time.
With a blizzard of confetti raining under on Gillette Stadium, owner Robert Kraft make his way onto the ar for yet an additional AFC Championship trophy presentation, ~ above the 24th anniversary the the day he had actually purchased the team. Kraft was taking his franchise come the Super key for an unmatched ninth time.
As he absorbed the moment, Kraft looked at his sons and thought earlier to once he had sat v them in the stands in the 70s, dreaming about owning the team the he watched lose year after year. They’d come a long way. In the 24 years due to the fact that he’d purchase the team, the Patriots had gone come the postseason 19 times and also suffered just two shedding seasons, the last one being means back in 2000. Kraft’s franchise was poised to success its 6th championship. Just legendary Chicago bear owner George Halas had actually amassed 6 championships. But that remained in the pre–Super bowl era and also it had actually taken Halas 40 years. If the Patriots won this time, Kraft would have recorded up come him in about fifty percent the time.
In one on-the-field interview v CBS, Brady downplayed his injury. “I’ve had a many worse,” that said. In the locker room, however, Brady tracked under Leibman, placed his arms approximately him, and thanked him. “I assumed this injury was going to it is in the finish of mine career,” Brady called him.
One by one, players thanked Leibman. Climate Robert and also Jonathan, Kraft’s sons, thanked Leibman. However Leibman deflected every one of the credit ago on Brady.
“I still don’t understand exactly how he played,” Leibman said. “It no make any kind of sense to me. He played v a surgical incision ~ above his throw thumb.”
In his postgame push conference, Belichick was asked come talk about Amendola.
“Danny’s a remarkable competitor,” the told the press. “Danny’s such a good football player. When you look up ‘good soccer player’ in the dictionary, his picture’s appropriate there beside it. Doesn’t issue what it is. Fielding punts. 3rd down. Large play. Red area. Onside absent recovery. Every little thing we need him to do. He’s just a incredible player. Really instinctive. Tough. Good concentration. And made some large plays for us today.”
“Bill,” a reporter said, “just your thoughts ~ above Tom Brady, all that went on external the locker room, and throwing the means he did today.”
Belichick’s expression changed. “Yeah, well, what went on external the locker room is all you guys,” that said. “So you can tell me all around that. Within the locker room, everybody prepared for the game. Tom go a great job preparing. I assumed we all completed today and also made sufficient plays to win.”
“Bill, walk anything have actually to change game-plan-wise because of Brady’s hand?” a reporter asked.
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Exasperated, Belichick take it a long pause. Shiver his head, he lastly said, “Not the I’m mindful of.”
“Can you just speak come the resourcefulness of Tom managing something prefer that midweek and then comes out and also playing a huge game choose that?” a reporter said.
“I mean, look,” Belichick said. “Tom go a good job and also he’s a hard guy. We all understand that. Every right? but we’re not talking about open heart surgery here.”