FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots began on-field preparations for Super Bowl XLII on Thursday in the aftermath of Tom Brady’s unsuccessful quarterback sneak.
Days after photographers caught Brady wearing a walking boot as he limped into the New York apartment building of supermodel girlfriend Gisele Bundchen, the NFL’s most valuable player was kept out of sight at Gillette Stadium.
Brady, who reportedly has a mild ankle sprain, was absent from the locker room while it was open to media before practice, and he was not in the indoor practice facility adjacent to the stadium during the 15 minutes reporters are allowed to observe the workout. The Patriots did not announce if he took part in practice.
“The injury report will be out next Wednesday, and we’re excited to give that to you (the media),” said coach Bill Belichick, tongue firmly in cheek. “That form will be filled out completely, and I can’t wait to give that to everybody. I know you’re anxious for it, so when it’s due on Wednesday, we’ll have it for you. Don’t worry about that.”
An eight-year veteran, Brady has had one of the best years by a quarterback in NFL history, throwing for 4,806 yards with a league-record 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He had a shaky performance against San Diego in the AFC title game, however, getting picked three times.
Asked if Brady’s condition should be portrayed as a nonissue, Belichick said, “Portray it however you want.”
As the questions about Brady came from the herd of reporters in the locker room on Thursday, the Patriots displayed the discipline that has put them on the edge of the first 19-0 season in NFL history. Politicians do not stick to talking points like these guys:
• Defensive lineman Richard Seymour: “That’s something you’ll have to talk to Brady about. I have about as much information as you have. I’m really not sure about it.”
• Receiver Wes Welker: “You’ll have to ask Tom about anything pertaining to his ankle.”
• Safety Rodney Harrison: “I didn’t see the (pictures). I don’t know anything about that.”
• Cornerback Ellis Hobbs: “That has nothing to do with me. Next question.”
Running back Kevin Faulk — who, with Brady, is among ten players who have been part of all three of New England’s title teams (2001, ’03, ’04) — broke the synergy somewhat by saying he has no worries about the quarterback, who has made 126 consecutive starts.
“I didn’t think anything of it. I changed the channel,” Faulk said. “I know what kind of person and what kind of player Tom is.”
Between batting down inquiries on Brady, Belichick and players talked about the opponent they will meet in Glendale — the New York Giants, who made the Patriots work for a 38-35 victory in the regular-season finale before winning three consecutive road games in the playoffs.
“We felt like that was a playoff-caliber game,” Belichick said. “They’re a good football team, and they’re getting better. They’ve gotten better through the entire year. Just look at their series with Dallas. I think those three games are a good example of their progress as a team from when they played them in the regular season to the postseason game.”
The Giants lost the two regular-season games to the Cowboys but won 21-17 when it counted at Dallas in the NFC divisional playoffs.
“The team we saw in December is the one that has been present throughout this playoff run,” Hobbs said. “Against us, even though we won, they made a lot of situations come out positive for them, and they used it to build momentum in the playoffs.”
In December, New York was all that stood in the way of the Patriots’ pursuit of the first 16-0 record in NFL history. Now, the Giants are the impediment between New England and its fourth Super Bowl title in seven years — and recognition as perhaps the greatest NFL team of all time.
“I hadn’t thought about that,” Welker said. “I think (the media) looks into that stuff more than players do. It’s the next game. This one really counts. We just have to make sure to prepare ourselves and be ready to go.”