Patriots vs Panthers: There appears to be a rift between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady regarding the importance of playing in the preseason. After missing the Patriots’ preseason opener to attend a funeral service, Brady was slated to start for New England against the Chicago Bears last week. But then he sliced his thumb with a knife minutes before kickoff and was sent home.
How to Watch
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
TV: WBZ Boston; WCCB Charlotte
Announcers: Dan Roche, Christian Fauria, Matt Chatham (Patriots); Mick Mixon, Mike Rucker (Panthers)
Live Stream: Watch HD Stream Here
Brady returned to Patriots’ practice Tuesday with a slight cut on his right thumb, but was able to participate in all team activities. He confirmed it was Belichick’s decision to sit him down last Thursday. “I wanted to go the other night, but I think coach made a great decision,” he said, via WEEI.
When asked about his status for Friday’s matchup against the Carolina Panthers, Brady talked about how much he wants to be on the field, even if it’s only for a couple of series.
“I’d like to be out there every time I get a chance to play, so you only get so many opportunities a year,” he said. “I’m getting so many opportunities left in my life, so I’d like to take advantage of any opportunity, any and all of them if possible. When you see your teammates out there in their uniforms and ready to go, you want to be out there with them.”
Brady made the trip to Carolina with the team, but Belichick didn’t give him any lip service. The head coach repeated his party line that “all three quarterbacks are extremely important,” but stressed that getting Jimmy Garoppolo ready for the first four games of the year is a big priority.
So far this preseason, Garoppolo has shown he’s capable of stepping in for Brady while he serves his four-game DeflateGate suspension. He was especially strong against the Bears last week, completing 16 of 21 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown.
What makes Garoppolo’s performance more impressive is that he’s done it with a skeleton crew offensively. Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola haven’t been active this preseason, and the team has suffered a slew of injuries as well. Running back Dion Lewis, who will need a second knee surgery, is the biggest loss.
The offensive line has been through some turmoil, too, thanks to injuries to tackle Sebastian Vollmer and guard Shaq Mason. The Patriots also traded embattled center Bryan Stork to Washington Wednesday.
On the other side of the field, the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers are coming off a convincing 26-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans last week. Cam Newton completed three of his first four passes, including a 61-yard bomb to Ted Ginn Jr. He finished 8-of-12 passing for 162 yards.
Though the offense looks strong, the traditionally stout Panthers defense has shown some cracks this summer in the secondary. Second-round pick James Bradberry, who’s expected to help fill Josh Norman’s void at cornerback, failed to slow down fellow rookie Tajae Sharpe. The Titans wideout caught six passes for 68 yards in the first half.
Rescinding Norman’s franchise tag was one of the more controversial moves of free agency. The Panthers’ defensive backs only have two weeks left to assuage any concerns heading into the regular season.