FOXBOROUGH -- Tom Brady says his arm isn't tired, sore, or otherwise distressed.
And if there were something wrong with the right wing of the Patriots' quarterback, you would not have known yesterday afternoon.
An hour after New England's final training camp practice, Brady returned to the field at Gillette Stadium for a 45-minute throwing session under the direction of Tom Martinez, quarterback coach with whom he has worked since high school.
With teammate Deion Branch as his volunteer target, Brady threw several dozen passes, varying in length from 10-yard throws (to a stationary Branch) to 35-40 yarders (as Branch faded into the corner of the end zone).
Martinez, the longtime coach at the College of San Mateo, appeared to be instructing Brady on specific throwing mechanics.
The recent questions about Brady's arm stem from his throwing, or lack thereof, in practice the past two weeks. He was already the most watched Patriot when camp began three weeks ago, and a change in the practice routine brought more scrutiny to the two-time Super Bowl MVP. During some workouts, he mostly stood and watched. In others, he participated but didn't throw.
On one day, his birthday, he didn't even bother to bring his helmet to the field.
Last Friday, he sat out the exhibition opener at Cincinnati, and before the game, the only throws he made were playfully tossed lefthanded or underhanded.
All of it is a ''feel thing," Brady said -- not about feeling bad, but about keeping him feeling good.
''I'm not on a pitch count; we're not counting throws," Brady said. ''It's precaution, and the more precaution, the better."
Brady is amused at speculation that there is something wrong.
''I sound like a broken record," he said. ''I feel good about where I'm at throwing the ball. I think Coach wants to give the other guys a look and at the same time it's nice to get a few days off from throwing.
''It's a long, long season. There's been a few years where my arm hasn't felt very good. A lot of [the rest in camp] is the precaution of making sure it never gets to a point where you've got to back off in the regular season, because that's not really what you want to do."
Brady said much of the rest is an effort to reduce the time he throws in both morning and afternoon sessions of two-a-days. Monday, for instance, he did little in the early workout, but led the way in the evening.
At yesterday's single afternoon practice, Brady worked with the first team and threw more passes than any of the three backup quarterbacks in preparation for tomorrow's exhibition game against New Orleans.
Brady was crisp with his throws during a fast-paced two-minute drill session, and he was sharp during another drill in which the offense was given seven seconds to run one play, stop the clock, and set up for a field goal attempt.
Brady believes he will start against the Saints, though he is unsure how much action he will see. Doug Flutie is expected to play for the first time as well. On at least two days this week (Sunday and yesterday), he and Brady were more involved in drills than Rohan Davey and Matt Cassel, who split time against Cincinnati in the first exhibition.
''I expect Tom to play," said coach Bill Belichick. ''How much, we have to make that determination."Sitting out the Cincinnati game was certainly different from taking a break in the last exhibition game a year ago, when none of the Patriots starters -- save for kicker Adam Vinatieri, punter Josh Miller, and long snapper Lonie Paxton -- played against Jacksonville.
''As a player, you don't like to see your guys take the field without you, because it makes you feel like, 'Maybe they don't need me out there,' which is kind of humbling in a sense," Brady said. ''I like being out there taking the reps and making the plays. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to do that last weekend."
Of late, he hasn't been taking the reps and making the plays much in practice. But that doesn't bother him.
''We throw a lot," Brady said. ''The quarterbacks, we throw every day and we throw hard every day.
''It's not like baseball. Those guys throw hard, then have a few days off. It's a different throwing motion and different mechanics, but for the most part you're throwing the ball hard and it's nice for us quarterbacks to get a little rest, too.
''You just try to make sure you're fresh. The last thing you want is to start the regular season, Week 1, and miss Wednesday or Thursday practice because something is sore, or because you're tired. [You'd] rather build into the year rather than have to work backward later on.
''In previous years, my arm gets tired, it gets worn down toward the end of the year. I guess [we're] maybe trying to take some of those throws out earlier in the year and hopefully see how it works later on."
For now, he'll just continue to laugh at the many theories on his time off.
''You try to answer the questions and address them, but everyone's got an idea," Brady said. ''It just comes down to I know the reason why I'm not throwing and the coach does. And I think in a lot of ways, that's the only people that matter. I try not to let anyone be concerned, just go out there and try to get everything going when I am out here."