As football players and coaches try to wrestle with the challenges associated with head injuries, it’s important to consider carefully the words of the sport’s most influential voices on the situation. Even if those voices choose to say hardly any words at all.
That’s what happened on Tuesday, when Patriots coach Bill Belichick finally faced questions about the claim from Gisele Bundchen that her husband, Tom Brady, suffered a concussion during the 2016. Here’s the full content of the exchange between reporters and Belichick
Q: What is the organization’s response to the comment by a family member that Tom Brady suffered a concussion last season?
Belichick: Well, I’m sure you know, Mike [Reiss], we file injury reports every week. So I’m not sure when the next one’s due, probably sometime in September, but we’ll have one for you then. [Editor’s note: Belichick didn’t answer the question.]
Q: How challenging is managing the reporting and treatment of concussions from a team standpoint?
Belichick: We file our reports in compliance with league guidelines. [Editor’s note: Belichick didn’t answer the question.]
Q: Have you seen progress in players self-reporting concussion-like symptoms?
Belichick: You know, our medical staff really handles the injury situation with players. Players don’t come to me and I don’t treat them for injuries. That’s not really my job. That’s what we have medical staff for. [Editor’s note: Belichick answered the question, but not really. Whether and to what extent the culture of football has changed regarding head injuries is an important factor for its future, and the notion that coaches keep their hands fully clean and their heads fully buried regarding such matters is either not credible or irresponsible.]
Q: To what degree is player safety important to you personally, particularly as it pertains to concussions and head injuries?
Belichick: Yeah, I think I’ve talked about that quite a bit. Our foundation supports that cause. Personally, I’ve spent a lot of time on it. [Editor’s note: He’s answered the question, but it was the standard Belichick bum rush, aimed at saying as little as possible except when the question accidentally tickles his football-nerd fancy.]
It’s one thing for Belichick to treat coaching a football team with military-grade secrecy. It’s quite another for Belichick to give short shrift to important issues regarding player health and safety.
I know, Patriots fans. He has every right to say whatever he wants. And in turn we have every right to say that he’s not saying nearly enough, given the important position he occupies at the most important level of football regarding one of the most important challenges facing the sport.