Tom Brady, in his 22nd seasons in the NFL, has seen some things.
The 44-year-old Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback has won seven Super Bowls and appeared in 10, has played with scores of teammates, has seen different offensive philosophies become popular while others have faded away, has seen rules amended and different points of emphasis enforced and he thinks today’s game is softer than the one he entered.
Speaking on the Let’s Go podcast, Brady was talking about the differences between the time when quarterbacks played mostly from the pocket years ago, compared to the contemporary game, when passers are often asked to be mobile and create outside the pocket.
“You’re definitely more injury prone because you’re out of the pocket,” Brady said Monday on the Let’s Go podcast. “You don’t have the types of protection that you typically have in the pocket. And I would say the one thing that’s probably changed over the years in terms of why it’s probably gone a little more this way is, and I’ve alluded to this in the past, I think they’re calling more penalties on defensive players for hitting for violent contact. I think when you’re out of the pocket … there’s a lot of plays and hits that are happening on quarterbacks now, that are flags for defensive players, that probably weren’t that way 10 or 15 years ago.
“So I’d say the game is a little softer than it used to be. I think the defensive players are more on the defensive when they go in to tackle. And I think that’s probably adding to this element of quarterbacks outside the pocket and taking more chances, you know, than they did in the past.”
Brady has been a recent critic of NFL rules, from the league allowing players of several positions to wear uniform numbers that had previously not been allowed, to prior comments about the application of unnecessary roughness penalties that result from mistakes made by quarterbacks.
“A quarterback should only throw the ball to certain places, because your receiver is in danger of getting hit,” Brady said earlier this month during a roundtable discussion posted on the Buccaneers’ website. “For example, when I used to play against (Baltimore Ravens linebacker) Ray Lewis, I wouldn’t throw the ball to the middle of the field because he would … hit them and knock them out of the game. And now, every hard hit is a penalty on the defense. So I feel like they penalize defensive players for offensive mistakes.”
In recent years, as the link between repeated head trauma in football and cognitive degenerative diseases has become more known, the NFL has applied several rule changes to restrict the areas where defenders can target offensive players.
In 2018, the NFL adopted a targeting-style rule that penalizes players for lowering their helmet to initiate contact. That was intended to strengthen the rule that was already in place that banned helmet-to-helmet contact. The league has also focused on hits below the waist that can often lead to serious, season-ending knee injuries.
Brady has completed 65.1% of his passes for 655 yards and a league-leading nine touchdowns so far this season and the Buccaneers, the defending Super Bowl champions, are 2-0.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tom Brady: NFL ‘is a little softer’ than when Buccaneers QB started
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