Friday, December 13, 2013
By Mike Lowe firstname.lastname@example.org
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady was nowhere to be seen Monday night at Gillette Stadium, which, if you think about it, was probably best for the New England Patriots.
You see, Brady's not Michael Vick.
He won't be waking up Tuesday morning, and Wednesday morning, and maybe Thursday morning, with a dagger-pain in his ribs.
Vick took a shot to his ribs from New England's Jermaine Cunningham on the Philadelphia Eagles' seventh play of Monday night's preseason game against the Patriots.
The Eagles' quarterback rolled over, wobbled a bit, then smartly took a knee while his teammates huddled.
After talking to the trainers -- through gritted teeth -- Vick left the game for X-rays. They were negative, meaning Vick didn't have any broken ribs, but that he was knocked out of the game illustrates why Patriots Coach Bill Belichick didn't play Brady.
The Patriots have two more preseason games in the next eight days -- Friday at Tampa and Aug. 29 at the New York Giants -- and certainly don't need any of their stars going down with injuries.
That's why, in addition to Brady, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez didn't play. Neither did wide receivers Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Lloyd. Or defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. Or linebacker Jerod Mayo. Or cornerback Devin McCourty.
Monday's game, which the Eagles won 27-17 as backup quarterback Nick Foles threw two touchdown passes in Vick's absence, was about two things to Belichick: keeping his stars healthy and evaluating everyone else. He said as much the other day.
"There is nothing more important than the health of our team," he said during an interview on WEEI, a Boston sports talk radio station. "And you want to recognize that and do everything we can to keep as many guys practicing and healthy as much as we can.
"I'd say that will probably be the No. 1 priority relative to those games, and then evaluate the guys that are playing and see how they do."
Safety Patrick Chung did play. He suffered a shoulder injury early on and didn't return. How serious? Early reports are that it's just a precautionary move, meaning Belichick let out a big sigh of relief. Chung is one defensive back the Patriots can't afford to lose.
Obviously, this preseason schedule isn't the ideal way to put a team together, with three games in a span of nine days. But, as Belichick is known to say, it is what it is.
"We'll do the best we can with what opportunities we have," said Belichick in a press conference the other day.
The Patriots will board a plane Tuesday and head to Florida. Following two days of joint practices with the Buccaneers, they will play Friday night. They'll return home, then get ready for a game next Wednesday against the Giants.
More than anything, said Belichick, the condensed schedule has hampered the team's ability to put in new plays or formations.
"In terms of actually being able to go out there and talk about something in the morning, walk through it, practice it in the afternoon, watch the film at night, correct it, go through some of the little things that didn't come up or that did come up that we need to kind of go back over again or fine-tune again, that's what you lose," he said.
What the Patriots gained was a good look at the other players.
They learned Monday that they desperately miss tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who hasn't practiced yet this year, possibly because of recurring back problems. Second-year tackles Nate Solder (left) and Marcus Cannon (right) have struggled.
They learned that wide receiver Deion Branch, reportedly fighting for a roster spot, still has something left. He caught three passes for 51 yards.
They learned there's a long way to go to the regular season.
"It was a good experience," said Belichick after the game. "A lot of good situations came up. We played against a good team. There were some things to build on. And a lot of things to correct."
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: