The NFL community continues to ask plenty of questions after learning Thursday that Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady played the 2020 season on what was first reported to be a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee that he first suffered during the 2019 campaign later said by sources to be a fully torn MCL.
Brady turns 44 years old in August, so it's understandable why he avoided going under the knife until this past offseason. According to NBC Sports and "Sunday Night Football" sports medicine analyst Mike Ryan, the seven-time champion signal-caller took the field with a "moderate" risk of worsening the issue each week.
"Ligaments stabilize joints," Ryan explained in text messages shared by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. "With a compromised ligament, the joint has more laxity. The greater the instability of the ligament, the greater the looseness of the joint."
As for whether the MCL was partially or completely torn, Ryan noted: "With the thin slicing of an MRI, if a small tear in the MCL exists, it will be graded as Grade 3, or complete tear."
Dr. Jesse Morse of The Fantasy Doctors said in a video that Brady likely played through pain each game.
More thoughts on Brady: He was in pain everyday. Couldn’t focus on training b/c he constantly had to address his knee. No QB/player that we know of has played with this level of severity of MCL sprain before. Maybe grade 1, mild grade 2, not Grade 3. Draft guide will have more.— Jesse Morse, MD (@DrJesseMorse) July 16, 2021
Both Morse and Ryan noted Brady also risked re-tearing the ACL that was torn in the fall of 2008.
Brady was never on the injured list with a knee problem last season, which would be a clear violation of the league's rules for reporting such setbacks. It remains unclear if the NFL will look to fine or otherwise punish the Buccaneers, coach Bruce Arians or anybody else associated with the club for this crime.