LANDOVER, Md. – Right shoulder, questionable?
It's been almost a running joke over the years that Tom Brady will be listed each week on the injury report as probable with a right shoulder issue. This time, it might not be so amusing.
Here's the good news: Tom Brady and Randy Moss played like it was 2007 all over again on Friday night.
Here's the not-so-good news: Brady's first half of the Pats preseason game against Washington ended like 2008 – with questions surrounding his health following a hard hit.
The Patriots franchise QB ended the first half of New England's eventual 27-24 win with what was described in the press box as "soreness" in his right, throwing shoulder.
Number 12 appeared to injure his shoulder while being tackled late in the second quarter by the Redskins' mega-millionaire defensive lineman, Albert Haynesworth. Brady landed awkwardly, with his arm extended after releasing the football and the full weight of the 300-plus pound Haynesworth on top of him.
CBS cameras caught Brady on the bench moving his right arm in a circular motion as if to test it for any sign of trouble. He was then seen after the half throwing a bit on the sidelines before the second half kickoff, but then retreated to the locker room.
After the game, head coach Bill Belichick was asked about Brady's condition.
"Oh, I'm sure he has some bumps and bruises just like everybody else," the coach coyly replied.
Pressed further about Brady not seeing the field in the second stanza, Belichick insisted his plan all along was to insert backups Kevin O'Connell and Andrew Walter into the game at that time.
Brady, who typically talks to reporters in a group setting after games – particularly ones in which he throws touchdowns with such apparent ease as he did with Moss on Friday – was nowhere to be found in or around the visiting locker room of FedEx Field.
Brady's teammates, meanwhile, pleaded ignorance when asked about the play on which their quarterback was injured. Nearly every player to whom the question was posed insisted he hadn't seen the play.
Without question, in the days ahead, his status will be the most intensely scrutinized aspect of the Pats' victory in their third preseason game – a sea-saw battle which saw the Patriots pull out a win in the waning seconds.
Before disappearing for the evening, Brady appeared to be in mid-season form. With excellent play-fakes, solid protection from his offensive line, and his trademark sixth sense in the pocket, Brady calmly completed 12 of his 19 pass attempts in the first two quarters. Two of those were as-you-draw-them-up touchdown strikes to Moss.
Brady's injury wasn't the only concern for the Pats on this night. Rookie corner Darius Butler was shaken up midway through the game and had to leave the field. He did not return. His replacement, second-year player Terrance Wheatley, also needed to be helped off the field in the second half. He was not seen thereafter either.
Meanwhile, no matter who's in the secondary, New England's overall pass defense continues to experience growing pains. Thirteen different Redskins caught passes for a total of just under 300 yards – many times the result of considerable cushions being given by Pats defenders.
On the positive side, New England's starting front seven proved stout against the run. The tandem of Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour made several nice plays to get into the Washington backfield to disrupt plays or stifle Redskins runners for minimal or no gains. And when the Patriots run the ball, they were generally productive, even if their stats didn't necessarily reflect it.
As always, there were some mixed results as well. Most notable: rookie Pat Chung muffed his first punt return attempt yet again, but in the game's final minutes, he produced a spectacular effort to set his team up for the game-winning field goal.
But it all comes back to Brady on this night. Chances are, he wouldn't be scheduled to play much – if at all – in next week's preseason finale against the Giants. But in light of these latest developments, any prolonged absence by Brady might wind up raising more questions at a time when it appeared Brady had answered them emphatically.