FOXBOROUGH - The Patriots continued to play it safe with quarterback Tom Brady yesterday.
Brady, who is recovering from a high right ankle sprain, was not present at the start of practice. Brady did not practice at all Thursday, according to a league source.
The injury is considered minor and is not expected to keep Brady from playing in Super Bowl XLII Feb. 3, but the Patriots appear to be taking advantage of the two weeks leading up to the game by having Brady rest.
Although high ankle sprains are generally considered more serious than low ankle sprains, there are situations where that is not the case.
"A high ankle sprain often is, but doesn't have to be, more severe than a low ankle sprain," explained Michael A. Robinson, a sports podiatrist and foot surgeon based in Brookline.
"The most common low ankle sprains are inversion-type injuries, which occur below the level of the lateral ankle and may cause injury of variable degree to the ligaments. The high ankle sprain is more rare and occurs at the level of the ankle, resulting from a greater twisting force on the syndesmotic ligaments [that connect the tibia with the fibula]. [High ankle sprains] can be more severe but not necessarily, as appears to be the case with Brady, in that he is not limping without his boot."
Nicholas DiNubile, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, explained that ankle sprains are graded based on severity.
"We grade them 1, 2, or 3, depending on the degree of ligament tear," DiNubile said. "The high ankle sprain is notoriously worse in terms of degree of disability it causes for the athlete, but if it's relatively mild, it's not going to be an issue. If he just tweaked it a little, and it's Grade 1, he's going to bounce back quick with that. If you have a Grade 2 or Grade 3, or moderate or severe sprain, with the high ankle sprain that player is going to recover much slower."
DiNubile said resting the ankle would help reduce swelling and inflammation, accelerating a player's recovery.
"It's a blessing that he has the two weeks leading up to the game," DiNubile said. "You can fully recover from a mild one."
Brady was not present in the locker room yesterday during the 45-minute session open to reporters in the late morning. Photographers staked out his locker in case he showed up, but were left to snap pictures of clothes.
Earlier in the morning, coach Bill Belichick declined to reveal if Brady was to practice.
In an interview with 890 ESPN Radio yesterday, tight end Benjamin Watson was asked what practice has been like without Brady.
"It's obviously different because Tom has been a fixture on this offense for a long time," he said.
Other players continued to turn to humor when asked about Brady's status.
"Bill actually brought me in his office earlier this morning and asked me if I wanted to move to quarterback, and we're going to put in a whole new offense," cracked receiver Donte' Stallworth. "He wants me to run the option. We brought in the coach from Nebraska, Tom Osborne, so I've met with him and we have the option going. Tom [Brady's] going to go ahead and let me take the reins for this game."
Fellow receiver Wes Welker also took the humorous route, taking a shot at Stallworth.
"Coach pulled me into the office and told me I was going to be the quarterback, so I don't know where he's hearing that from," Welker joked.
So, there's a quarterback controversy?
"A little bit," Welker said, on cue.
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.