Brady's back. In Sports Illustrated this week (no spoilers until tomorrow on SI.com; sorry), I've got the first extended interview with Brady since the Sept. 7 knee injury that knocked him out for the 2008 season. I found him confident that his knee's going to be fine, with a bold thing or two to say about his future ... and an interesting explanation of how he got the staph infection that caused him a couple of setbacks in his rehab last fall. Brady's been throwing to his receivers -- he estimates he's thrown with Randy Moss 12 times -- and I asked Wes Welker what he saw in Brady. "It's been fun for him to throw it around, and he's throwing it good," Welker said. "Rehab gets pretty old. You want to be out there, playing.''
The last time Brady had his hands on this team for a full season, the Patriots set an NFL record, scoring 36.8 points a game, two points a game more than any other team in history. They've had to replace 82 wide-receiver catches from that team, with Jabar Gaffney and Donte' Stallworth out, so Greg Lewis and the ancient Joey Galloway are in. I see Lewis, a reliable darter, catching 50 balls. But Galloway had a bad foot (since recovered) last year, started only four games in Tampa, and comes north with doubts that he can stay healthy. On the plus side: He played in 47-of-48 Bucs games from 2005 through 2007.
I asked Welker whether the 2009 offense can be as good as the 2007 offense.
"I feel we've gotten better,'' he said. "Back in '07, Randy and I were in our first year here, and I don't know about Randy, but I was worried about where the hell I was supposed to line up a lot of that season. Now, with so many touches over the last two years, the offense is second nature to us. This is a complicated offense, and getting to know it takes time. But now I think we both know it well, and we're on the same page with Tom every snap. Our goal is to continue to get better. I hope we can. We've got some good new weapons here, and it'll be great for us to get on the field together to see what we can do.''
Funny to think of in this way, but the key to a great offensive season for New England might actually be the fleet Galloway, who I'm told is running in the 4.4s even at 38. Imagine splitting a healthy Galloway and Moss wide to either side, with Welker in the slot and a good receiver like Kevin Faulk in the backfield. There are going to be some tough coverage assignments for a defense with those receivers playing as a group.