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Star QB testifies in Weis case

At Suffolk Superior Court early yesterday morning, attorney Michael E. Mone joked that his wife suddenly wanted to come see him argue a case yesterday.

"I've been trying cases for 30 years," Mone said with a chuckle. "My wife has never been interested until now."

His wife's enthusiasm was driven by the expected appearance of a star witness: New England Patriots quarterback and heartthrob Tom Brady.

Brady, boyfriend of a Victoria's Secret model, Tom Terrific to the tabloids, was coming to testify in a malpractice suit brought by his former coach -- and Mone's client -- Charlie Weis.

Mone's wife wasn't the only one who wanted a glimpse. By 9 a.m. about 50 people had crowded into courtroom 313, waiting for the quarterback to show. Those who couldn't squeeze into the seats -- about a dozen people -- were forced to stand. It was clear that the crowd had not turned out to take in the intricacies of malpractice law.

Everyone who did not have a seat was soon thrown out.

"There's no standing room," court officer John O'Brien told them.

The crestfallen men and women slunk out.

"Don't anybody get cute with those picture phones," O'Brien sternly warned those who remained, "or I'll take them away from you."

Nobody got cute.

Since the trial began Tuesday, jurors have been sitting through complicated medical testimony about edemas and hemorrhages and other unappetizing medical minutiae. The appearance of the well-groomed, 6-foot-4 three-time Super Bowl MVP was a striking departure.

As Brady -- dressed in a natty charcoal gray suit, white shirt, and white pocket square -- strode to the witness stand from the back of the courtroom, all jurors' eyes were upon him.

Mone, straight-faced, asked him to state his name, then his profession.

Brady replied, politely, then began, under Mone's gentle questioning, to talk about his relationship with the former Patriots offensive coordinator.

Brady was at Weis's bedside following the coach's gastric bypass surgery in 2002, after which he bled internally for hours before doctors reoperated on him. Weis, now head coach at University of Notre Dame, is suing two Massachusetts General Hospital surgeons, contending that their negligence after the operation brought him close to death and left him with permanant nerve damage.

Attorneys for the doctors have argued that Weis's complications are not unusual after gastric bypass surgery and that the surgeons acted with all due care.

On the stand, Brady's affection for Weis was obvious. He described meeting Weis shortly after he was drafted by the Patriots in 2000. The two quickly became friends, he said. Brady rose to become the team's standout player under Weis's tutelage.

"Obviously, the coach-player relationship ends up being very close," Brady said. "Charlie is my mentor."

Brady said that he and Weis shared the same values on and off the field and that he admired his coaching style.

"You're only as good as the coaches who coach you," Brady said. " He has the highest expectations of anybody I have ever been around. He was just one of those coaches who instilled confidence in you."

Weis, listening intently from the front row with his wife Maura, smiled several times during Brady's testimony.

The quarterback spoke calmly and confidently, looking only at the jurors, and seemed to earnestly try to connect with them.

At one point, he was asked if he had remained friendly with Weis after the coach moved on to Notre Dame.

"Yeah, except when he plays Michigan, my old school," Brady joked.

Several jurors broke into laughter. When Weis decided to have gastric bypass surgery, Brady was one of the few people he confided in. Brady said he wanted to offer Weis and his wife support when he underwent the procedure.

On the day he visited Weis in June 2002 at Mass. General, Brady found his coach in the intensive care unit, passing in and out of consciousness, Brady said. He stayed with the Weises most of that day. Doctors eventually operated on Weis a second time, setting him on the road to recovery. But his attorneys argue that the complications from the first surgery led to nerve damage, which has permanently affected his legs.

Brady said Weis wasn't the same when he came back to the team several weeks later. He needed a motorized cart at first to get around the field and eventually switched to a cane and leg braces. He admitted to being in intense pain, which was not like Weis, Brady said.

"He constantly was trying to rub his legs," Brady said. "I just remember him expressing the pain he was in after standing for long periods of time. Charlie was never one to complain; he just toughs it out. . . . There's a macho mentality in football. . . . You don't want anybody to pity you."

After Mone's questioning concluded, William J. Dailey Jr., attorney for the surgeons, Charles M. Ferguson and Richard A. Hodin, approached cautiously.

Dailey had just a few questions, none asked aggressively.

A few minutes later, Brady left the stand, and the air in the courtroom seemed different. The return to the dry matters of thiamin deficiencies and barium swallows resumed.

But downstairs in the Sidebar Cafe, a little sandwich shop where lawyers get their egg salads and newspapers, worker Gayle P. Whittier was still in heaven.

She had been one of a handful of people allowed into a clerk's office to meet Brady before his court appearance.

"He's the first real sports figure that I admire that I've met," said Whittier, who has only peripheral vision and is legally blind. "I'm not big on heroes, because most of them are self-centered or drug addicts."

Whittier, 61, said she "didn't get ga-ga or hysterical" in Brady's presence, but said she was mighty impressed.

"He just stood there, tall and straight and with that beautiful smile, and I got close enough to see it," she said giddily. "I might be twice his age, but I'm alive!"

(Correction: Because of an editing error, a story on Page One last Saturday incorrectly described New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as a three-time Super Bowl MVP. He was a two-time winner, in 2002 and 2004. In 2005, the Super Bowl MVP was Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch.)