FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In the almost nine months since Tom Brady was last seen on a football field, he's added a wife, a few pounds and a knee brace that won't let him forget the injury that cost him all of last season.
"The reality is, in this sport, you really never know. Any day could be your last day in football," the New England Patriots quarterback told a crush of reporters after practice on Thursday. "I don't think about the end too often. Hopefully this is still, relatively, in the early part of my career."
In his first news conference since torn knee ligaments finished his 2008 season in the opening game, Brady said he has moved on from the injury. But his comments showed that he's used some of his time off to think about the role football plays in his life.
Having married supermodel Gisele Bundchen and spent some extra time with his 21-month-old son, Jack, Brady said he's grown more appreciative of the things that are important to him.
One of them is football.
"I think when you sit on the sidelines for an entire year you realize how much you love it. ... You experience things in a much different way, and a way that I never experienced as an athlete," he said. "I love being out here. I love participating and being around these guys."
A two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player and the NFL MVP in 2007, Brady crumpled to the ground last September when he was tackled in the pocket by Kansas City Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard. He had surgery in October and then another to clear up an infection, and he wore a knee brace under his long sweat pants on Thursday.
"You wake up the next day and think, 'Was that a dream? Because that's not really how I thought it was going to go," Brady said. "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."
On other topics, Brady said:
• He is a few pounds over his playing weight.
• He would rather not wear the brace, but he acceded to the demands of the team's trainer.
• He hasn't talked to other quarterbacks who have had reconstructive knee surgery, though he has talked to teammates who went through the same thing.
• He is looking forward to the team's game against the Buccaneers in London this year: "I'd much rather play in London than at Tampa's stadium."
• The team will find a way to replace offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who left to become the head coach of the Denver Broncos.
"That's part of the NFL: Things change every year," Brady said. "I hope that we find ways to move on without him. We've already started that process. It doesn't stop for anybody around here. You leave and someone else fills your spot and they're anxious for the opportunity."
Brady's injury usually takes 8-12 months to recover from, but he said that he is not at all limited in what he can do on the football field. Although he was critical of his own performance in practice -- his third with the full team -- he said it was more a lack of work than anything related to the injury.
"This is a hard game. You always think it's going to get easier as you get older, and you're going to complete more balls. That's not the way it works," he said. "I feel as good as I could possibly feel. ... There is obviously a lot of rust by all of us, being off for four months. Thank God the season is a few months away, but we need the work and I need the work."
Otherwise, nothing should keep him from being available for the Sept. 14 regular-season opener against Buffalo.
Yet perhaps his injury also has given Brady a new perspective on that.
"There are a lot of things that could happen in two months," he said. "I've got to drive home this afternoon in Boston traffic. You never know what could happen."