Catch-up time with Brady
He doesn't avoid rush in first glance
FOXBOROUGH - The baggy workout pants couldn't hide the brace on his surgically repaired left knee and his alacrity couldn't disguise his rust, but there was no mistaking Tom Brady.
Yesterday, for the first time since Sept. 7, when Kansas City safety Bernard Pollard plowed into Brady's planted leg in the season opener, the Patriots' convalescing quarterback threw passes with more than just team personnel around to see them.
Participating in the Patriots' organized team activity for the third straight day, the only session open to the media, Brady provided the most expansive window into his recovery from torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his knee and his most extensive comments, talking for nearly 24 minutes.
The three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback and 2007 NFL Most Valuable Player said he feels good about the status of his knee, but, like his play in the OTA, Brady's comments were a little guarded.
"I feel as good as I could possibly feel," Brady said. "I don't think about [the knee]. It doesn't bother me doing anything, so it's feeling really good. That's about as good as I can say. I'm real happy with where I'm at and coming out in these workouts. I'm happy to participate in them. That was something that was a big goal for me to be able to do."
Although it's dangerous to draw conclusions from a noncontact workout in May, to say Brady was at his best yesterday would be inaccurate - like some of his passes. Brady threw five passes in an 11-on-11 drill and completed two. He was able to do three-, five-, and seven-step drops, but his gait was a little ginger when he had to pitch the ball on a toss sweep.
In March, Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the Globe that Brady would wear a brace this season. Brady said the brace wasn't a big deal.
"No, you don't really notice it," he said. "I mean, I'd rather not wear it, but [trainer] Jim [Whalen] is forcing me to wear it, so I got to listen to him."
Brady, who threw just 11 passes last season, acknowledged he needs work.
"I feel I've been playing football for a long time. You don't have to relearn how to do anything," said Brady. "You just have to go out and try to be sharp. I don't think I've been very sharp the last couple of days in practice. It takes a lot of reps and a lot of practice."
How well Brady will be able to dodge pass rushers - or paparazzi - remains to be seen, but he was evasive when asked what could stop him from being ready for the season opener Sept. 14 against Buffalo.
"There are a lot of things that could happen in two months," Brady said. "I have to drive home this afternoon in Boston traffic. You never know what could happen. Knock on wood, please. We're out here preparing. I don't anticipate anything, and I hope there is not. We'll deal with something if something does [crop up] . . . lightning striking. I don't know."
The last full season Brady played, he threw an NFL-record 50 touchdown passes and led an offense that scored an NFL-record 589 points. Is he confident he can be that player again?
"We'll see. We'll see," he said. "Talk is cheap. I could sit here and tell you guys I'm going to play until I'm 80, but that doesn't matter. I'm going to go do the best I can do, and I'm going to try to be the best leader and the best teammate and supporter of the guys on my team. That's something that I've always enjoyed doing.
"I'm grateful to have that chance and to be out here today. I can't wait to get out and start playing games."
During his rehabilitation, some reports indicated Brady might not be able to play this season because he developed an infection following knee surgery Oct. 6. The infection required two surgical irrigations and a six-week course of antibiotics. Brady downplayed the role it played in his rehabilitation.
"Part of surgery and rehab is you have setbacks, and you just deal with them," he said. "It doesn't always go how you plan it. Life doesn't always go how you plan it, and it's a matter of dealing with it and understanding 'what do I have to do to get on the right track?' It didn't really set me back for very long, just long enough to keep me from really hurting myself."
Before last season, Brady had never suffered such a severe injury, making 128 consecutive starts (including playoffs). Brady said he doesn't think about the play that ended his 2008 season after just 15 offensive snaps.
"I've never really thought about it," he said. "I've never really focused on it. I think I felt bad for myself that night, and I think I moved on after that. Since then, it's about trying to get better. I'm grateful to be out here. To have the chance to come out here and play is something that I've always wanted to do my entire life, and I've had the opportunity to do it for nine years and I'm at it again for my 10th. So I can't wait.
"Randy [Moss] jokes that he wishes this were training camp, and in a lot of ways I think we feel the same way. We want to get back to doing what we love to do."
The biggest question Brady, who turns 32 in August, answered was about his desire to continue playing. For all the glitz and glamour with being Brady off the field, he is most at peace and comfortable on a football field with a helmet covering his oft-photographed face.
"I hope I have the opportunity to play for a long time," he said. "I think when you sit on the sideline for an entire year you realize how much you love it, not that you need that to happen to be grateful to play, but you experience things in a much different way, a way I've never experienced as an athlete. I love being out here.
"I love participating and being around these guys. We're working for some big goals that we've set. We've just got to come out here and work hard every day and do our job."
Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at email@example.com.