The NFL has been a quarterback-driven league since Joe Montana was slinging the ball to the likes of Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Dwight Clark, and it remains that way through the first 12 weeks of the 2022 season.
Entering Week 13, Deshaun Watson and Tom Brady dominate the storylines. Watson is returning to the field for his first regular-season game in 700 days, while Brady’s surprise play at age 45 has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the top of the NFC South despite their losing record.
Watson is about to play his first official game for the Cleveland Browns Sunday against his former team, the Houston Texans.
Watson sat out the entire 2021 season after he requested to be traded amid damning allegations of sexual misconduct against him. More than two dozen women filed civil lawsuits against him, alleging he exposed himself, touched them or kissed them against their will.
He settled 23 of the lawsuits. Two others remain pending. Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict him on criminal charges. He agreed to an 11-game suspension before the start of the season and was permitted to play in the preseason for the Browns before having to step away from the team until last week.
Montana told Fox News Digital in a recent interview he expected it to take time for Watson to get back into the swing of things, but not too long.
“Guys are used to getting hurt and missing a number of games, and it’ll take a while, even in practice, to get used to things,” Montana said. “But he’ll jump in the saddle fairly quick. Obviously with a different team, so that’ll take a little bit of adjusting also at the same time.
“But how well will he perform? I put my money that he’d be average, maybe a little bit better (than average) than what he’s normally playing at just because, no matter what you really do in practice and how physically you stay in shape or do the things you need to do, there’s nothing like the real-time game stuff. And it’ll take him a little bit. I don’t think it’ll take him too long to get back in the swing, but it’ll take a game or two.”
Debate raged after Brady left the New England Patriots for the Buccaneers before the start of the 2020 season about who was the GOAT of the NFL, Brady or Montana. The latter played until he was 38, and Brady is still putting together quality seasons at age 45.
Montana said, in Brady’s case, it was good to have a strong supporting cast around him to avoid injuries.
“I think everybody is kind of getting used to it now,” he said of Brady excelling into his mid-40s. “But when he first started continuing to play, obviously, a lot of things play into that. He’s a great player. He’s got a great team on both sides of the ball, and that helps you. Not getting hit also makes it a little bit easier to get through those games physically. So, when you get to the next week, you’re still not banged up, and you don’t have anywhere near as many injuries.
“They’ve taken away a lot of things where a quarterback normally gets hurt, like low hits and the compression into the ground by the defensive lineman. So, I’m not surprised he’s (excelling). I was surprised actually that Drew Brees got out of the game like that at that age. He was playing pretty well when he got out.”
Montana, now 66, partnered with Wellcare to help seniors with guidance through their Medicare enrollment period. Montana has been Medicare-eligible for a year and knows firsthand the process can be confusing, especially with the Dec. 7 deadline looming.
“I really didn’t think I’d be sitting here talking to anybody about this,” he told Fox News Digital. “The process was really, really a lot more difficult and confusing. And there’s people out there trying to sell you a lot of nonsense, things that you don’t really need or looking for. Once we met up with the WellCare team, they really smoothed out this process.
“Honestly, it felt like they really want you to struggle and miss the date on Dec. 7,” Montana said of the process. “I’m really not sure why there’s a deadline, but there is. So, we’re trying to get the word out to make sure you find someone and get through this process because even though you think you might have it, by the time you figure it out, the deadline might pass.”
Montana said part of the goal is to just stay as healthy as you can be.
“You have to find ways that fit what you’re comfortable with,” he explained. “You have to find a way to exercise – whether it’s walking, jogging. I’m kind of bound by the stationary bike or walking. I’ve had 27 surgeries, so it’s been one of those things where it’s a little different for me.
“But I know that I have to, health-wise, keep up on things. The best way to do that is have your family around you, your friends, whatever it takes to help you start eating better.
“I think those are the biggest things. You’ve got to just find ways to keep your mind sharp and your body, and you got to exercise it. All of it. You got to exercise your mind to exercise your body, and you got to eat right.”