Fully recovered Patriots QB raring to go for Monday night opener
September 13, 2009
By: Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH -- Usually the beneficiary of Tom Brady's brilliance, the Patriots found out how hard it is to defend him.
The story goes something like this: Brady was back in town for part of the offseason program and, energized by the progress of his surgically repaired left knee, went to the team's indoor practice facility to let it rip. A quarterback getting in some extra work would normally be no cause for alarm, but this case was a bit different.
That was the question some were asking, as veteran defensive lineman Ty Warren remembers it. Warren was rehabbing his own injury, so he'd grown accustomed to seeing Brady in the training room, but Brady's absence sent some scurrying to the indoor practice facility.
"I remember they had to peel him out of there, because he was up there throwing the ball when they thought he shouldn't have been," Warren said. "That's a self-motivated guy right there."
Tom Brady will take his first regular season snap in more than a year on Monday night.
Brady has never lacked for motivation, still carrying himself like the sixth-round draft choice (199th overall pick) that he was.
But he seems to have ratcheted things up that much higher this year, not missing a single training camp practice for the first time in recent memory, firing about 160 passes per day. He appears in tip-top physical condition, in part because of a lean diet that those close to him say includes chicken at every meal. His personal trainer has been by his side throughout.
On the offseason day in question, when Brady had his own team scrambling to slow him down, he simply said he was testing himself to see what he was capable of doing.
Now he's fully ready to unload, starting Monday night against the Bills at Gillette Stadium (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET). All systems are go.
"I've had no issues; it's been a real smooth transition," Brady said late last week in the team's locker room as preparations wound down. "I'm ready, and I think everyone feels it as the week goes on, the excitement building. It's time to kick it off."
Not being part of an opening kickoff for a full season has altered Brady's football outlook. He had started 128 straight regular-season and playoff games -- a streak that put him in the same iron-man category as Brett Favre and Peyton Manning -- before the knee injury knocked him out on the 15th offensive play of the Patriots' 2008 season.
He compared his situation to that of anyone who has had something he loves taken away from him. Once you get it back, there is a greater appreciation for it.
"I had a new perspective on things this year, from being out a long time," Brady said. "When you have a chance to be out there, you take advantage of every practice that you have. You take advantage of every meeting to try to improve and try to be a good leader. I think that was a big part of it this year. It was important to be out there as much as possible, to be out there leading, and showing up to practice and doing my part."
In past years, Brady has been given practices off, which he'd joke was a result of his getting old. He had also talked about being on a pitch count to preserve his arm, saying that at this point of his career, sometimes less could be more.
Reminded of those comments earlier in training camp, he said his full-time, full-go approach is his way of "reversing the trend."
The approach has been noted by teammates.
"He wants to be in the trenches with the guys. That's just the way he is," center Dan Koppen said.
"It's like he never left. It seems like he never was hurt," Warren said.
Those who have experienced the type of injury and rehabilitation that Brady endured -- such as Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer -- say the mental obstacles are significant. Palmer noted that he initially had uneasiness about defenders' being down by his feet, so he had to get over the urge to step out of the way to protect himself while also reminding himself to fully step into his throw.
Brady seemed to be working through some of those issues in his three preseason performances, in which the Patriots were playing with a regular-season-like urgency. He's talked about how the team missed the playoffs last year, which has served as a big motivator.
Not to mention his own motivation in returning from injury.
"I've been fortunate to play for a long time, and I hate to be someone who complains when it comes up," he said. "You deal with it, and you appreciate the opportunity when you have it. I appreciate it, starting Monday, and hopefully the rest of the year."
Mike Reiss first started covering the Patriots in 1997 with the team's official newspaper, Patriots Football Weekly, before moving on to the MetroWest Daily News in his hometown of Framingham. From 2005 to 2009, he covered the Patriots for The Boston Globe, while also writing on the NFL. He started his popular Patriots blog in 2004. Send any questions or comments for Mike to his mailbag. Follow him on Twitter here.