EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 29, 2009

Superman returns: All eyes on Brady as training camp opens tomorrow

All eyes on Brady as training camp opens tomorrow

By Hector Longo

FOXBORO — In the past 11 months or so, Tom Brady got no time to brood, no time to lament.

He really didn't want any. Therein lies the New England Patriot quarterback's greatness.

It should be business as usual tomorrow as training camp 2009 kicks off at Patriot Place.

Brady, who turns 32 on Monday with a totally reconstructed and yet-to-be-tested left knee, is expected to be in full uniform tomorrow, taking snaps under center - once again the focal point of the NFL's dominant franchise of the decade.

"There have been a couple of guys on our team that have had knee injuries," said Brady back in mini-camp. "You've got to do the rehab. Nobody likes to do rehab ... I'm someone that likes to put the work in."

As camp opens, the Patriots stand at the top of all the Las Vegas boards, favored to win the AFC and the Super Bowl.

Brady's presence back on the field has assured that.

But how good can the best player ever to wear a Patriots uniform be, less than a full year from that catastrophic helmet to the knee by Kansas City's Bernard Pollard back on September 7, 2008?

Around the locker room, the Patriots continue their usual business-like attitude, even in the face of near-disaster.

"It was only an ACL," said defensive linemen and five-time Pro Bowler Richard Seymour recently on a WCNN interview in Atlanta.

"We're fully confident that (Brady) can come back and do his job."

Clearly, the Patriots went out and assured that Brady will have the weapons he needs to challenge that record-smashing 2007 campaign, in which he threw 50 TDs and only eight interceptions with 4,806 yards passing in the 16-0 regular season.

"We've added some tight ends (Chris Baker and Alex Smith) and Joey (Galloway) and Greg (Lewis) are here as well," said Brady. "I know the kind of effort we put in 2007 and we need to match that."

The additions at tight end, along with veteran halfback Fred Taylor, could indicate a return back to the Patriots offense of 2001-2004 - more smashmouth and less vertical work down the field.

But at the end of the day, the three top playmakers at Brady's disposal are receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker plus third-down scatback Kevin Faulk.

Brady again will be the lynchpin, the decisive factor between prosperity and mediocrity.

"We are all trying to do something special," said Brady. "You need to be extremely consistent in everything you do to accomplish your goals. It's challenging. When you don't make the playoffs, you're looking up at a lot of teams. We've got to get back to winning some football games."

Training Camp Facts and figures

The Patriots roster stands at 82 active players currently. A

ll NFL teams must cut to 75 by September 1 and 53 by September 5. ...

New England's first preseason exhibition game is August 13 at Philadelphia.

The Pats will then play Cincinnati at home on August 20, then go to Washington on August 28 and finally host the New York Giants on Sept. 3, before opening the regular season at home on Monday night, Sept. 14. ...

The Patriots will barrage training camp fans with 20 different food or drink options available at concession stands including "Sack Attack Sausage" and "First Down Franks." ...

The preseason roster includes 38 players drafted by New England, 20 signed as veteran free agents, 19 rookie and first-year free agents, four acquired via trade and one, Mark LeVoir, claimed off waivers from St. Louis.