NFL championship games: Tom Brady is hurt (or is he?) as Patriots face Jaguars; Vikings, Eagles get set

Tom Brady wants you to know his hand is just fine. Kidding. He isn’t saying a word. (Bill Sikes/Associated Press)

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Injury news | Playoff picks / Super Bowl odds

What is going on with Tom Brady? Was there a serious injury to his passing hand just days before the New England Patriots play the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC championship game? Or are the gigantic red gloves he’s wearing merely masking a latent Michael Jackson phase?

Brady was asked about it Friday, and he opened up. Kidding. He didn’t say diddly about the allegedly afflicted digit that sidelined him from practice and led the Patriots to list him as “questionable,” sending Patriots fans running into the streets in panic.

So, what happened? The NFL Network reports that he cut his right thumb during practice Wednesday and needed four stitches. He missed practice Thursday and was limited Friday. However, a source told the network’s Ian Rapoport that he was “zinging it pretty good,” not that the Patriots let reporters watch that part of practice.

Reporters did note that he was wearing huge red gloves on both hands during the portion of the session they saw and he kept them on during a media session that was vintage Patriots.

Question: Tom, how’s your hand?

Brady: “I’m not talking about it.”

Q: Thumbs up or thumbs down for Sunday?

TB: “We’ll see.”

Q: Did you throw any footballs today?

TB: “I’m not talking about that.”

Q: Did you practice today?

TB: “I was out there.”

Q: How was practice?

TB: “It was fun.”

Q: How much are you looking forward to the opportunity Sunday?

TB: “It’s a great challenge. I think the team has worked hard to get to this point, and it’ll be a great game. We are playing against a really good team that’s good in all phases. And we’re going to have to play really well.”

Q: Do you have to be on top of your game on Sunday to beat this team?

TB: “Absolutely. It’s the best team we’ve faced all year. They’re here for a reason. They obviously are a top-ranked defense in the league. Great players at all levels. Really well coached. Scoring a lot of points. So, we’re going to have to play really well.”

Q: How confident are you that you’ll be playing on Sunday?

TB: “We’ll see.”

Q: Does it worry you at all that you missed a practice when you have to be at the top of your game?

TB: “Yeah, I would always rather practice. Absolutely.”

Q: Will you be on top of your game Sunday, physically capable?

TB: “We’ll see.”

Note how he did nothing to take the pressure off Bill Belichick for trading backup Jimmy Garoppolo and leaving Brian Hoyer in the pantry if Brady can’t go.

Let’s go to The Hoodie for clarity. Asked if Brady would be a game-time decision, he replied, “It’s Friday.”

So, we’ll see (3:05 p.m. EST, CBS). Maybe Glovegate is just a fresh Patriots mind game. Or maybe this is really, really a serious injury. We’ll see. Yeah. We’ll see … him play.

Top story lines

Jacksonville talks a good game: The Patriots will face the Jaguars’ tough defense, with Jalen Ramsey doing the kind of trash talking that will either backfire or succeed fantastically.

“We going to the Super Bowl,” the 23-year-old cornerback told a group of fans after the Jags beat the Steelers last weekend. “And we’re going to win that b—-!” (Read more about the cornerback’s journey to trash talker extraordinaire.)

Vikings-Eagles (6:40 p.m. EST, Fox): Keep an eye on Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox, who has a touching pregame ritual.

He’ll make the sign of a cross over his chest, kiss his fingertips and point skyward. Then, when the final note of the national anthem is sung, he’ll look up and whisper, “I love you, bro.”

It’s how he honors his brother, who died of a heart attack at the age of 34. “I talk to him before every game,” the Eagles defensive tackle said during a quiet moment at his locker. “He used to always tell me, ‘Eye of the Tiger.’ He used to always text me that.” (Read more about the loss that nearly broke Cox.)

NFL headlines

Hits, not concussions, linked to CTE: A new study from Boston University links repetitive hits to the head rather than concussions as the cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, especially in younger athletes. (Read more.)

Leave the paper products at home: Gene Steratore — you’ll remember how he used an index card to determine a first down in a Sunday night game — gets the call to referee Super Bowl LII. (Read more.)

Send your résumé to The Hoodie: Bill Belichick is going to be challenged again by the expected departure of his two star coordinators. That hasn’t mattered in the past. Will it this time, when Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniel depart? (Read more.)

Fear not for “Kurt”: Kirk Cousins is still going to get paid despite the presence of three non-elite quarterbacks among the NFL’s final four teams. (Read more.) Still, Scot McCloughan says, “I don’t see special,” where Cousins is concerned. (Read more.)

When you have three QBs, you’ve really got none: Which quarterback should the Vikings keep? How about none of them? (Read more.)

Injury news

What about Tom? See Brady, Tom, and his 40-year-old hand above.

Playoff picks

The Patriots and Vikings will move on to Super Bowl LII. (Read more.)


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