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A play on Thursday against the Philadelphia Eagles may have added to the suspicion.
As Brady threw a long interception late in the first half and the play was still live, a referee appeared to intercede between him and defensive end Derek Barnett as Barnett began to block the quarterback.
Former Eagles tight end Clay Harbor called out the moment on Twitter.
— Clay Harbor (@clayharbs82) October 15, 2021
Citing the NFL rulebook, Yahoo noted that “the quarterback is deemed to be in a defenseless position until he assumes a distinctly defensive position.”
And Brady seemed to react passively at first. But the play was live and evolving, and the seven-time Super Bowl winner began to pursue the ball carrier for a potential tackle while the referee remained between them.
Brady threw for 297 yards and two touchdowns to lead the defending Super Bowl champions to a 28-22 victory. But did he get an assist from a guy in stripes, too?
Ref tells him to stop blocking Tom Brady IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAMN PLAY pic.twitter.com/YInNh6xDfU
— Pete Damilatis (@PeteDamilatis) October 15, 2021
Ref out here throwing blocks for Tom Brady 😂 pic.twitter.com/fHPNBl54B8
— JzoSports (@JzoSports) October 15, 2021
Totally legal block off an interception and the referee was like nah don’t touch Brady. Ridiculous pic.twitter.com/BjRqSJmvfs
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) October 15, 2021
The ref has his Tom Brady underoos on under his uniform https://t.co/8xI1alXsAZ
— Jason Townsend (@fez4375) October 15, 2021
REF BLOCKING BARNETT FROM HITTING BRADY ON THE INT RETURN IVE SEEN IT ALL
— dean 🦂 (@DeanScorpion_) October 15, 2021
The ref tried to save Brady...that lineman had every right to push and shove and try to block him 🤣🤣🤣
— True to self Mack (@TyWomack11) October 15, 2021
Defensive lineman are taught to block the QB on an interception. But when it’s Tom Brady it’s called rough play and dirty as he is protected by the refs.
— Thomas Smith III (@ThomasSmithIII3) October 15, 2021
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.