Source: Brady on track for opener

By Christopher L. Gasper and Shira Springer
Globe Staff / January 27, 2009
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TAMPA -- Tom Brady is progressing on pace in his rehabilitation from reconstructive left knee surgery and is now dropping back and throwing passes, according to a medical source familiar with the Patriots quarterback's case. No additional surgical procedures are planned, according to NFL and medical sources.

Since Brady suffered a postoperative infection, there was concern that the damaged knee would require more surgery to deal with the buildup of scar tissue and other possible complications that could prevent him from being ready for the 2009 season.

The medical source who has been consulted about Brady's injury said Brady is "on track to be fine for the opening game of the season.

"Based on anybody else doing an ACL rehab, he's going right along. He had a shaky start, but he's caught up," said the source.

The source added that Brady, who suffered torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in the Patriots' opener against the Chiefs Sept. 7 and had surgery to repair both ligaments Oct. 6, is throwing, running, doing his skill drills, and getting in shape.

Still, the sources acknowledged that Brady has "laxity" in the MCL and some stiffness in the joint. Additionally, sources said Brady has not regained full range of motion, though it is not unusual for patients who have undergone ACL reconstruction to have lingering range-of-motion issues, especially in cases of infection.

An infection after Brady's surgery required at least two surgical irrigations of the area and a six-week course of antibiotics that delayed the start of his rehab. The infection is no longer considered an issue and the rehabilitation schedule has not been significantly compromised.

As the intensity of football-related and other rehab activity increases, all indications are Brady will continue making steady progress. NFL sources, however, caution that there remains a lot of work before the opener, with months of rigorous rehabilitation remaining.

Brady is continuing to rehab under the auspices of both Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache, who performed his surgery in Los Angeles, and the Patriots medical staff. ElAttrache has flown between LA and Boston to follow up with Brady.

While the Patriots obviously want Brady, the 2007 NFL MVP, back for the start of the 2009 season, the greater concern is how strong the knee will be when he returns, how long the knee will hold up, and how it will affect his play.

Brady, who turns 32 in August, and the Patriots likely will not have definitive answers to those questions until this summer, when the quarterback can test himself in game-like situations at training camp.

All the more reason for the Patriots to place the franchise tag on backup quarterback Matt Cassel, who proved a more than capable starter while filling in for Brady. The Patriots can't franchise Cassel, preventing the QB from becoming an unrestricted free agent, until Feb. 5.

Still, the latest reports on Brady's knee seem more encouraging than a month ago, when an report said both the ACL and MCL were loose and a second reconstructive surgery would be required to repair the problem.

The report said the second surgery could cost Brady the 2009 season.

Now it appears that barring an unanticipated setback, Brady is on track to play in 2009. But whether he'll be the same player he was before the knee injury when he returns remains to be seen.

Former Patriots and current Steelers cornerback Fernando Bryant said Brady's mere presence will help the Patriots.

"I'm a big Brady fan. I hope he comes back," said Bryant, who was cut by the Patriots out of training camp. , yesterday during Super Bowl Media Day. "He's one of the coolest guys I've ever met in my life. In my 10 years in the NFL, I've never seen a quarterback that interacts with the team the way he does: offense, defense, and special teams. I'm not going to lie. He's special."

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