Brady’s injuries are healing well
He doesn’t need offseason surgery
At first, most of the 20 kids playing flag football yesterday at the Tobin Community Center didn’t notice when the tall man walked into the gym and ambled to the middle of the court. A few stopped, stared, and staggered toward him, as if compelled by a magnetic force. Slowly, they all realized what was happening: Tom Brady had come to visit them.
Brady would rather have postponed the visit to Roxbury by a couple of weeks and been in Foxborough, preparing for a Super Bowl return instead of making a charitable appearance. But the Patriots’ first-round playoff loss placed him in the unfamiliar position of spectator and forced him to confront the offseason’s issues sooner than he hoped.
At the charity event yesterday supporting Boston Centers for Youth & Families, Brady addressed several of the issues. Brady will not require surgery to repair injuries to his ribs or thumb; he professed no urgency in extending his contract, which expires in a year; and he believes owners and players remain far apart in reaching a deal to salvage the 2011 season.
Yesterday, he paused his offseason plans to assist the community. Before the season, Brady and Glaceau smartwater, one of the companies he endorses, pledged to donate $5,000 to BCYF for each game in which he was not sacked. The six sack-less games produced a $30,000 check, which Brady presented yesterday.
Brady now will return to the job of ensuring the Patriots, at this time next year, will fill the position now occupied by the Indianapolis Colts. Brady watched the conference title games Sunday, and while doing so he spotted the championship hallmarks lacking from his team this season.
“You never want to rationalize a season, but in reality we did not deserve it,’’ Brady said. “We did not earn it. The teams that are in, they earned it. From what I watched yesterday, you can see why. They played well. They’re tough. They’re physical. They’re smart. They’re disciplined. I hope all the players on our team look at that and say, ‘OK, this is what we’ve got to measure ourselves by.’ ’’
By the end of the season, injuries had diminished Brady’s skills. He played through ribs that were either cracked or fractured and a broken finger on his right hand. But unlike last year, when he recovered from major surgeries, Brady’s offseason will not be defined by rehabilitation. Instead, he is confident he can allow the ailments to heal on their own.
“Just bumps and bruises,’’ Brady said. “Over the course of the year, we all deal with those. I’m feeling good. I really am. I’m excited I don’t have to have surgery this offseason. A year ago at this time there were all these concerns about whether I was going to play this year. I was never concerned about that - I tried to tell you guys. It’s nice to be in an offseason where I really feel I can get started right away.’’
Rather than health, his focus will be on restoring the Patriots as an elite NFL team.
“The way it ended, there’s a lot of things we need to do better,’’ Brady said. “I talked about a lot of those over the course of the year. This is the part of the offseason where we try to solve those problems. Every team has problems, their strengths and weaknesses. It’s about identifying those and figuring out ways to improve them.
“There’re a lot of them. The things I focus on are the things I need to do better. There’re a lot of things I need to do better, as a player, as a leader, as a quarterback, as a mentor. I’m one of the oldest guys on the team now. I’ve seen a lot of good teams, and I’ve been on teams that haven’t been successful. Hopefully I can provide insight to those players in a leadership role for what we need to do.’’
Brady is entering the final year of his six-year contract, and when asked about that topic he contorted his face like someone who just realized there is a parking ticket on his windshield. Brady prefers to avoid discussion of his contract, but he shared some thoughts.
“We’re all way overpaid,’’ he said. “I love playing. We’re all fortunate to play. We all have the greatest job in the world, and I have the greatest job in the world. I love Boston. I love the community.’’
Several quarterbacks, notably San Diego’s Philip Rivers, have received large contract extensions recently. If Brady does not shore up his contract status, it soon will become the most prominent story line surrounding the franchise. Brady, though, did not express a preference of getting his contract situation settled before the 2010 season begins.
“Well, I’m under contract. I signed a six-year contract five years ago,’’ he said. “There are a lot of players that end up being in my situation. There is a lot of uncertainty in the league. As a player rep now, I realize all the issues that our league faces. It’s a really unique time in our league. As a team player, I don’t sit here and say, ‘What about me? What about me?’ I’m under contract. I’ll go out there and play and play my butt off.’’
At the moment, there is no guarantee the NFL will play in 2011. The owners and Players Association remain far apart in striking a new collective bargaining agreement. Brady, an assistant player representative for the Patriots, said he has spoken with several leaders within the Players Association and, “we’re a long way away, from the way it sounds.’’
While Brady spent about 10 minutes with reporters, the quarterback came to Tobin Community Center to play with 20 kids from the BCYF. The leaders planned it so the kids did not know if or when Brady would show up.
“Their eyes just popped so big, and their mouths dropped,’’ said Hector Galaraza, a youth advocate at Boston Centers for Youths & Families. “That just made the whole entire day.’’
The kids gathered around him, faces frozen. “Who’s going to be my receiver?’’ Brady asked.
The kids shot their hands into the air and screamed “Me! Me!’’ Brady chuckled and told them, “Everybody can’t be my receiver.’’
After Brady finished speaking with reporters, he walked across the gym and huddled with the kids. He played quarterback for both teams, flinging spirals and dishing advice for about 20 minutes. “He told me to keep on playing football and to practice,’’ said Juan Garcia. “And get better and get like him.’’
Along with donating the money - represented by a cardboard, bottle-shaped check - Brady’s visit raised awareness for BCYF. The program has had to cut staff from its 46 centers across Boston, even as members serve as both street workers and youth workers.
“I see him in other neighborhoods, doing speaking arrangements and all that stuff,’’ said Galaraza, who works as a youth worker, street worker, and coach for BCYF. “Being in the middle of this neighborhood here, Mission Hill, having him here, I’m going to think about it all day, all month, for the rest of the year. For him to put in his time, to come here, what you call ‘the ghettos,’ it makes a big difference.’’