FOXBOROUGH, Mass.—Tom Brady hasn't missed many starts during his 18-year NFL career, and no one sounds too worried that he'll be sidelined for this Sunday's AFC championship game.
Nonetheless, after Brady sat out the Patriots' practice yesterday‚ and did not speak to reporters as scheduled, there was plenty of speculation about the 40-year-old quarterback's health.
Brady sat out with a right-hand injury after being limited by the same issue a day earlier as New England prepares for its matchup with Jacksonville.
Brady wore a glove on the injured hand during the stretching portion of practice that was open to reporters (he usually wears a glove only on his non-throwing hand).
He was listed as a non-participant on the injury report, and his news conference was postponed until today.
With scant official information about the nature of Brady's injury, it fell to back-up quarterback Brian Hoyer to address the situation.
More than 50 reporters swarmed his locker as he walked through the locker-room. After stepping into the training room, Hoyer returned to find the assembled group.
“You guys waiting for Phil?” Hoyer asked wryly, referring to receiver Phillip Dorsett's adjacent locker.
For the next six minutes, he was asked a half-dozen questions about Brady, a quarterback he now has backed up twice.
Hoyer said he didn't see Brady get hurt and wouldn't elaborate on how much he's been able to do in practice the last two days.
“I'm always preparing to play because the truth of reality is you never know when your name's gonna be called,” he added.
Jaguars' coach Doug Marrone expects his defence to line up against Brady, not Hoyer, on Sunday.
“I'm sure he can throw left-handed if he has a problem with his right hand, you know, and throw it just as well,” Marrone said yesterday.
Hoyer was Brady's back-up for three seasons from 2009 through 2011. After leaving in 2012, he started for at least five-game stretches during stops in Cleveland, Houston, Chicago, and San Francisco.
Hoyer was cut by the 49ers on Oct. 31 after they traded a second-round pick to New England for Jimmy Garoppolo.
He signed as Brady's back-up the following day.
“I prepare every week like I'm gonna play," Hoyer reiterated. "Whether I do or I don't, that's not really up to me.”
Having coached in Brady's division in Buffalo, Marrone is familiar with his ability to play through pain.
Brady appeared on the Patriots' weekly injury report several times during the latter half of this season with injuries to both his Achilles tendon and his left shoulder.
He has never missed a playoff start during his 18-year career.
In fact, he hasn't missed any start because of an injury since he sat out the final 15 games of the 2008 season after tearing ligaments in his left knee during New England's season-opener.
Brady missed the first four games of 2016 while serving his “Deflategate” suspension.
He also popped up on the injury report late that season, but he didn't miss a game and capped the season with his MVP performance in the Patriots' comeback win over Atlanta in the Super Bowl.
Devin McCourty chuckled when he was asked about the frenzy created this week by Brady's injury.
“When you're a good-looking guy, a good quarterback, people want to know about you. I understand,” McCourty said.
"My people want to know about him, too. I get text messages and phone calls.
"When I first got here it was, 'Did you meet, Tom? Are you and Tom friends?'
“I'm happy now," McCourty added. ”Eight years in, I consider us friends.
“So I'm kind of a big deal back home.”