FOXBOROUGH — Seeing quarterback Tom Brady and his flowing mane standing at the podium addressing the media at Gilette Stadium at any point during the 2010 NFL season, one thought immediately comes to mind.
If this guy is, in fact, using hairplugs, they are damn good ones.
Why is this even an issue heading into the titanic AFC clash between Brady’s New England Patriots and the rival New York Jets Monday night here in Foxborough?
Because, much to Tom Terrific’s chagrin, the Jets, their fans and the New York media have made it one.
No wonder Brady said earlier this year he “hates” the Jets, so much so that he refused to watch the NFL Network’s training camp special Hard Knocks because Gang Green was the team that was featured.
Brady’s lengthy locks have been the focus of ridicule in the New York tabloids this week, with reports that he was seen leaving a hair plug clinic splashed all over the front pages.
Even his former teammate, Jets centre Damian Woody, made a crack about Brady’s highly publicized weave the other day.
This is how bitter this rivalry has become. No topic is off-limits when it comes to these two teams. Not even Brady’s hair.
All in all, just add it to the list of reasons why Brady despises Rex Ryan’s crew.
Asked this week if he still harbours ill-will toward the Jets, Brady did not deny it.
“Well, I promised coach (Bill) Belichick that I wouldn’t say anything derogatory, so I have no comment,” Brady replied.
That’s understandable. Hair aside, Brady has plenty of reason to detest the New Yorkers, none more than the fact that Ryan seems to have his number — at least as close as anyone can come to having Brady’s number.
In three previous meetings against the Jets since the chatty Ryan took over as head coach, Brady has gone just 1-2. This, remember, is the same Tom Brady who is ticketed for the Hall of Fame and barely has a losing record against anyone.
The biggest thing in his favour Monday night might be the fact that he will have a good dose of home cooking before the game. Brady is gunning for an NFL record 26th consecutive victory at Gilette Stadium, a home field streak that has never been accomplished by an NFL quarterback before.
Brady also will be aided by the absence of Jets safety Jim Leonhard, who broke his leg during practice on Friday. Along with being one of the better cover men in the league, Leonard is the Jets defensive quarterback, calling the signals and audibles for New York’s highly-ranked unit.
If he gets any kind of protection against Ryan’s series of complex schemes and blitzes, Brady and the Pats short passing game will be difficult to defend, even with all-world cornerback Darelle Revis at full health.
In yet another intriguing twist to the rivalry, Brady will be helped out by running back Danny Woodhead, who can be expected to lug the ball with a chip on his shoulder after being cut by the Jets earlier this year. It was a move coach Rex Ryan now admits was “a mistake.”
With both teams at 9-2, the winner will have a decided edge in the race for the AFC East crown and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Given Brady’s dominance at home — last season’s blowout post-season drubbing to the Baltimore Ravens being the exception — the Jets know how important a Monday night victory would be.
Ryan has been at his mischievous best of late, claiming he and Brady were similar in many ways including being married to supermodels. He then held up a magazine showcasing his wife, chuckling at the comparison to Gisele, Brady’s significant other.
Whether you like Ryan’s schtick or not, he is no clown. And Belichick knows it. The Pats coach, who very rarely heaps praise on opponents, went out of his way to refer to Ryan as a “very good coach” this past week.
In both New York and here in the Boston area, this game has been receiving Super Bowl-type hype in these two markets. It will be up to Brady and Ryan to see if the game lives up to its billing.