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Brady downplays his injury

He'll have hernia surgery in Boston

DETROIT -- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hit town this week, feeling the pain of a hernia that will require surgery and feeling the pain of not playing in a third consecutive Super Bowl.

''You drive in, see that everyone else is getting ready to play, and you're sitting there talking on the radio, so it's not nearly as much fun as it was last year," Brady said yesterday while he did a two-hour stint on Sirius Radio.

Brady, who tomorrow will become the first active player to toss the coin before a Super Bowl, did not say when he would have the surgery, but it will be done in Boston soon after he returns.

''A lot of guys played with pain throughout the year, so I don't think that affected at all the way I played or performed, it was just something you deal with," said Brady, who would not say when he suffered the injury. ''I don't want to get into a date or play, but to me it wasn't a big deal."

Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been in town for a couple of days, and like Brady, he misses participating more actively. He said he knows how the owners of the Seahawks and Steelers feel.

But Kraft talks as much about practice as the game. That is one of the things he misses most about his team not being in the Super Bowl.

While his wife, Myra, was visiting six local museums, Kraft spent the early afternoon holding court with a handful of media members after NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue's annual state of the league press conference.

''It's not as much fun," Kraft said of attending the Super Bowl without his Patriots.

Kraft said he would never take Super Bowl trips for granted, though he joked that his grandchildren don't know any better.

''Most of them are between 5 and 8 years old, and they think you go to the playoffs and Super Bowl every year," Kraft said. ''It's a lousy feeling [not being in the game], but my wife said, 'I don't think anyone's going to feel bad for you. There are people jumping for joy.'

''It's a lousy feeling when you've been there and you're not there. That's the sickness of this game. When you get a taste of it, you want more and more.

''Being in this game and having the privilege of winning, after getting married and the birth of your children, there's no feeling that's better. But once you've done it, then the pursuit of it again is so absorbent."

Brady and Kraft each said they felt an extra sting of pain because after the Patriots' loss to Denver, Pittsburgh beat Indianapolis, which would have meant a home tilt in the AFC title game.

''We kind of kicked ourselves in the stomach," Brady said on the air. ''To think that we could have had the AFC Championship game at home against a team that we had good success against and we beat 'em early in the year, we felt like we let a good opportunity get away."

Kraft, who feels the Patriots may have been the best team in the league when the season began, said the schedule hurt early on and may have been a factor in the high number of injuries the team sustained. But he would not feel like the team that wins the Super Bowl will hoist a trophy that belongs to his squad.

''We didn't earn it," he said. ''If we never win another one, I won't be happy, but God's been good. We've gotten our fair share. But I sure hope we'll be back, and I'll tell you, the guys in that locker room believe we'll be back. And the thing about the NFL, most games are won and lost in that locker room."

With former Rams quarterback Kurt Warner less than 20 feet away, Kraft recalled the moment he figured the Patriots were really going to win their first Super Bowl. It was when Tebucky Jones scooped up a fumble and raced the length of the field yards with an apparent touchdown against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Of course, the play was called back and when the Rams scored two plays later to cut the Patriots' lead to 17-10, Kraft said he could literally see the baseball roll between Bill Buckner's legs.

The Patriots ended up winning a nail-biter, and Kraft would not miss a minute of it.

An excited Kraft ignored the NFL's request that he go to the field in the final minutes of the game so that he would be there for the postgame ceremony should the Patriots win.

''I wouldn't go down until Adam [Vinatieri] kicked the ball, and they were saying, 'You're going to miss the ceremony,' " Kraft said. ''I said, 'Hey, they got to give the trophy to me, so I don't think they're going to have it without me.' "

Of course, Kraft made the trophy presentation and two more in the next three years, crowding up his mantel with championship prizes.

He won't get another this year, but there's always next year.

''You just can't wait to get back," he said. ''Saturday nights three of the last four years, we've had a nice family dinner with everyone here. I'm looking forward to doing that again."

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