• No one knows if the Patriots' star quarterback actually suffered concussions, but the NFL should not take Gisele's comments lightly.
By Jonathan Jones
May 17, 2017

Just before the start of on-field updates from organized team activities, which precede a three-day mini-camp in June, which precedes the only 30-day lull on the NFL calendar, we have been gifted—or cursed—with the latest New England Patriots controversy that will likely take center stage in the dog days of the NFL’s offseason.

Gisele Bündchen told CBS’s Charlie Rose in a clip released Wednesday morning that her husband, New England QB Tom Brady, had a concussion during last season’s Super Bowl run and, before stopping herself, indicated Brady has had multiple concussions in his career.

“I just have to say, as a wife, I’m a little bit, uh, as you know it’s not the most …uhm, let’s say, an aggressive sport,” Bündchen said. “Right? Football, like, he had a concussion last year. I mean he has concussions pretty much every …we don’t talk about it, but he does have concussions. I don’t really think it’s a healthy thing for your body to go through that kind of aggression.”

Obviously, this doesn’t line up with what the NFL knows, because Brady never showed up on an injury report with any type of head injury last season. It does not appear as though Brady has ever been on an injury report with a head injury in his 17-year career.

Uh oh.

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Bündchen’s word in this interview should not be taken as gospel, but it’s in the NFL’s best interest to take her claim credibly. In doing so the league will be forced to investigate, launching yet another in-depth look into the New England Patriots, its star quarterback and the inner workings of Bill Belichick’s team.

When it came to the Deflategate scandal, the league office over and over referenced the “integrity of the game,” and that simply came down to air pressure inside of a football (though we know other politics were at play). But the biggest problem facing the NFL isn’t the air pressure inside of the balls—it’s concussions.

Roger Goodell decided that a four-game suspension, stripping two draft picks and fining the Patriots $1 million was worth the year-and-a-half of lawyering and court-shuffling to uphold that integrity. So at what lengths will the league go to determine whether the greatest quarterback of all time, on a team that has butted heads with the commissioner and drawn ire from other clubs since Spygate, hid a concussion—or multiple brain injuries—from his team and/or the league?

I’m not demanding a Super Bowl re-do or calling for Jimmy Garoppolo to start in 2017 until this is all sorted out. Logically, though, the league can’t ignore the claims made about its cover boy by his wife.

No, Bündchen is not a doctor. She likely does not know the necessary procedures medical doctors use to determine whether someone is concussed. Indeed, she may have been throwing around the word ‘concussion’ when a more casual term would be ‘really bad headache,’ and a more appropriate term would be ‘sub-concussive symptoms.’

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But to reflexively say she cannot know because she’s not a doctor is at best ignorant and at worst misogynistic. It ignores the possibility that a real doctor determined Brady had a concussion and that information was relayed to Bündchen (maybe she was even in the room?). To dismiss her because she lacks medical credentials overlooks her personal credentials of being Brady’s wife. 

Bündchen’s bombshell comes days after Brady told ESPN that he plans to play into his mid-40s, which would break the league record for oldest starting quarterback. More importantly, though, it comes amid a new round of stories surrounding former players and their battles with concussions. SI’s S.L. Price detailed how Dolphins’ great Nick Buoniconti feels “lost” and “like a child” last week. The Miami Herald followed up with more stories of the 1972 Dolphins suffering. Aaron Hernandez, found dead in his cell last month on the day his former team visited the White House, will have his brain donated to Boston University’s CTE research project.

Brady hasn’t often weighed in on the concussions issue in the NFL. Last year, in what might have been his most extensive interview on the topic, he told ABC News that concussions are a part of life both inside and outside of sports.

“It’s a part of life, you know, not only football, but contact sports,” Brady said. “You run, you fall, you hit your head … but I think it’s good there’s more awareness than there’s been in the past.”

In a December 2015 interview with Boston radio station WEEI, a host asked Brady how many concussions he had suffered in his career. Brady responded: “I’d really not like to get into that.”

He may not have that choice now.