Ever since it happened on Sept. 7, Tom Brady has said almost nothing publicly.
There was the surprise appearance at the Patriots’ Salvation Army holiday party in December, but Brady deflected questions about his status.
The Pro Bowl quarterback had yet to address how his rehab from season-ending knee surgery is progressing. So when Brady finally did break his silence, most figured his first public comments would be to one of the major television networks or local newspapers, not a Toronto radio station known for covering hockey.
Brady went on The Fan 590 last week, and during a 10-minute interview, he said the rehab is going well despite reports that complications from surgery may affect whether he is ready to return for the 2009 season.
“I’m the most well-taken-care-of knee patient in history,” said Brady.
Brady underwent surgery on Oct. 6 in Los Angeles and had a second procedure a few weeks later after developing an infection.
Brady wasn’t asked if he expects to be back for training camp, and he wouldn’t give a timetable for his return, but he did say it was difficult for him to miss an entire season for the first time in his career.
“You play this game long enough and [expletive] happens, so to speak,” he said. “The reality is that it happens to everybody. I’m at a new part of my career and a different process that I’m excited about, rehabilitation and different challenges. The tough part is that you’re not experiencing something you love to do. But you get over that and focus on what you have to focus on. You just say, ‘OK, it happened, we’re moving on,’ and that’s what we’ve done.”
He also shared his thoughts on the turnover in New England’s front office and coaching staff this off-season, including the loss of vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
“Every team deals with it,” said Brady. “We dealt with it about three or four years ago with our two coordinators, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel. Eric Mangini left. This year, it’s different defections. They’re incredible coaches that have been a huge part of our success. … As long as we have Robert and Jonathan Kraft, and as long as we have coach [Bill] Belichick, I would think we’re going to be just fine.”
At the controls
Meanwhile, amid rumors that the Patriots will put the franchise tag on Matt Cassel, the first-year starter said that despite his stellar play as Brady’s replacement, there is no quarterback controversy in Foxborough.
“This is Tom’s team,” Cassel told ESPN. “The Patriots have been Tom’s team. He’s built that franchise up with his own two hands. He’s the guy, and he was the MVP the year before. I realize that. He’s been such a mentor for me that I would say, ‘No, there is no quarterback competition.’ But I’ve learned so many things from Tom, and hopefully it’ll help me in my career.”
The salary cap is scheduled to rise from $116 million to $123 million next season, and if the Patriots use the franchise tag on Cassel, that would tie up nearly $29 million. Cassel would be paid the average of the top five quarterback salaries in the league, somewhere around $12 million to $14 million; Brady’s 2009 salary is $5 million with a $3 million roster bonus. Additionally, $6.6 million of Brady’s pro-rated signing bonus will count against New England in 2009, giving him a cap number of $14.6 million.
The Patriots set an NFL record this past season for the fewest flags in a 16-game season with just 57 accepted penalties. Among individual players, veteran outside linebacker Mike Vrabel led the Patriots with six, four of which were offside penalties.
Backup tackle Nick Kaczur had the most penalties on offense with five, while left tackle Matt Light was flagged four times. Six players were penalized three times in 2008, including right guard Stephen Neal, wide receiver Sam Aiken, cornerback Ellis Hobbs, left guard Logan Mankins, inside linebacker Jerod Mayo, and tight end Ben Watson.
Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots for OT and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This week's OT cover
OT beat writersMaureen Mullen brings you Red Sox information and insights.
Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots.
Scott Souza is all over the Celtics.
Danny Picard is on the ice with the Bruins.
Mike McDonald takes a look at the humorous side of Boston sports