Matt Cassel vividly remembers when fate called on him to do his job.
The Detroit Lions quarterback recalled in an article The Athletic’s Jeff Howe published Friday what he was thinking when he had to replace Tom Brady after the New England Patriots quarterback suffered a season-ending knee injury. Friday is the 10th anniversary of the 2008 season-opening game between the Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. Just under five minutes into the contest, Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard hit Brady below his left knee, tearing his ACL and MCL just after he threw the ball to wide receiver Randy Moss. At that moment, Cassel emerged from obscure backup to center of attention.
“I remember following the ball down the field,” Cassel said, per Howe. “Then the crowd just fell silent. I thought it was just because of the (fumble), and then next thing I know, I see Tom laying down, and he usually gets up. At that point, I’d been with him for three years, and he was one of the toughest dudes ever. And he usually got up, so I knew something bad must have happened. Coach Belichick was like, ‘Cassel, you’re in.’ There was no crazy emotion, nothing like that.”
Cassel led the Patriots to a 17-10 win, but his new workload extended into the game’s afterlife: the postgame press conference, which produced this gem of an anecdote.
“We ended up winning the game, but I remember not even knowing where to go after the game,” Cassel said. “They were like, ‘You’ve got to do a press conference,’ I was like, ‘I haven’t done a press conference since I’ve been here.’ And then I was wearing a Nike hat and the league was sponsored by Reebok at the time, so I got a fine from the league saying that I was wearing inappropriate apparel for $10,000. I had no idea I wasn’t allowed to wear that. I had no idea I was going to be doing a press conference.
“I actually appealed it. When I got to talk to them, I just told them, ‘Look, guys, I wasn’t planning on doing a press conference. I didn’t have (a Reebok hat). If I would’ve known, I absolutely would’ve and I’ll know from now on.’ They were cool about it.”
Cassel would go on to lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record, but they failed to make the playoffs. Nevertheless, he credits the team’s veteran stars for his fine performances that season.
Thumbnail photo via Sergio Estrada/USA TODAY Sports Images