"When I heard him scream and yell, I knew something was wrong, that [stinks] because he's a great player." - Bernard Pollard
With 7:27 left in the first quarter during New England's 2008 home opener, your hit to the knees of Tom Brady saved the New England Patriots. By tearing major ligaments in the knee of New England's adopted son, you started a chain of events that have set the Patriots up to be the team to beat well beyond 2009.
New England fans should be happy Brady's injury happened when it did. The injury couldn't have taken place any earlier in the season, which allowed Brady a full year to recover (and after multiple surgeries, Brady needed all the time he could get to rehab and get his knee back in shape).
Brady is young enough to recover and continue to play championship caliber football. Joe Montana was a few years older than Brady when he suffered an elbow injury in 1991 that (for the most part) ended his career with San Francisco and sent him to Kansas City where he was never the same.
Someone being sent to Kansas City? That sounds familiar; oh you now have Matt Cassel. After your shoulder took out Brady's knees, we resorted to playing a kid who hadn't started a game since high school.
Well that kid proved a lot about himself and our team. Not only did he lead us to an 11-5 record, he gave the team confidence that they should (and can) be a feared and respected playoff caliber team even with Brady and several other veteran players sidelined by injuries.
Speaking of those other veteran players, your hit started a chain reaction here in New England that resulted in major injuries to Maroney, O'Callaghan, Clement, Stokes, Smith, Thomas, Crable, Woods, Bruschi, Ruud, Wheatley, Webster, Harrison, and Williams (to name a few).
With so many players injured, to finish 11-5 was not only a confidence boost to our coaches, depth chart, and fans; it was also a glimpse into the future of Patriot football, as we got to see our team perform without all the veteran household names.
Well Bernard, the season finally ended (thanks to Brett Favre’s passion for throwing interceptions) and the Miami Dolphins represented the AFC east in the playoffs (where Chad excelled at throwing interceptions and really showed the world how much they deserved to be there).
Kansas City never jumped on the opportunity to thrive in the Brady-less AFC (let alone the AFC West) by finishing 2-14.
The rest of the AFC had their chance to shine without Brady around to shred their defensive backfields, but Pittsburgh ended up winning the Super Bowl by defeating the same Arizona team the injury riddled Patriots beat 47-7.
Matt Cassel was eventually traded away to your graveyard of a franchise for what ended up being Patrick Chung (Alex Smith and Matt Stafford can relate to signing with this kind of career killing team).
The 2009 season is just around the corner Mr. Pollard, and the last time the Patriots missed the playoffs, the following season we stole Jake Delhomme's dreams of winning Super Bowl XXXVIII.
We have an abundance of fresh talent who will contribute right away to our 3-4 defense, and have set ourselves up for additional draft talent next year.
Some of those players who were part of our injury riddled 2008 season will be back in full force for 2009 and will be playing with something to prove (no NFL player wants to fade out after an injury, they want to show the world they can still play to their full potential), and our offensive line will more than likely be a little more careful protecting Brady.
It may have already been obvious to some, but by taking Brady out of the game you made it clear to everyone where we need improvement, and where our strengths are without Brady.
In order to make Brady's return easier, we now have an established running game that Sammy Morris started and Fred Taylor will now support him with the returning Maroney.
To improve our defense so Brady is no longer expected to simply outscore opponents, we have added Shawn Springs, Patrick Chung, Leigh Bodden and may sign Jason Taylor. I (we) really can't thank you enough!
I want to give you one final "thank you" Mr. Pollard for everything you did for us.
You made an 11-5 season acceptable and something to be excited about, took the pressure of the 2007-2008 18-1 season off of our shoulders, helped rebuild an aging defense, motivated us to give Brady additional offensive weapons, gave our team unparalleled motivation for 2009, and made Monday, September 14, 2009 a very scary day to be a Buffalo Bill.
The Patriot Nation