THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Bob Ryan

QB could have given boot to story

Tom Brady told the Gillette crowd the team wants to 'bring a title back to Foxborough.' Tom Brady told the Gillette crowd the team wants to "bring a title back to Foxborough." (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
Email|Print| Text size + By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / January 28, 2008

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Big ol' cordovans is what I'd call 'em.

Tom's shoes, that is.

He was wearing dark slacks, a tasteful - what else? - pinstriped blazer, a blue V-neck sweater (very preppy, actually) and a white shirt. At the bottom of it all were these snazzy shoes, and, no, he wasn't limping as he made his way on and off the podium.

"I'm feeling good," he said. "I'm ready to go."

So enough of the madness, OK?

"Yeah, it was an interesting week," he said. "I was glad to be back in the insulated halls of our locker room."

The question now is if Tom Brady recognizes just who he is. Did he really think an MVP quarterback from the city that just happens to be the opponent in America's single biggest sporting event, and who just happens to be dating a supermodel, could operate normally in a situation as loony as the New York City tabloid environment? Did he forget who the Patriots would be playing? Did he think the New York Post had gone out of business?

Whatever he was or wasn't thinking, he paid the price. What almost undoubtedly will turn out to be an irrelevant ankle owie became a gargantuan news story, the highlight of which was his picture on the front page of said Post with the walking boot on his right foot and the flowers in hand as he made his way back to Chez Gisele, all this accompanied by him being designated as a "Girlie Man" in the lower left hand corner of the page.

These things never happened to Sammy Baugh or Johnny Unitas, or Eli Manning, for that matter.

But this is Tom Brady, who long ago ceased to be just another good NFL quarterback, and who is a major part of Celebrity America. He is Crossover Man, for sure.

Understand that we wouldn't be having this conversation if the Patriots were playing anyone else. The Post would not have had a photog tailing Brady if the Patriots were playing the Packers. Brady's absence from practice last week would have been duly noted and explained as precautionary and inconsequential, and that would have been that. Oh, sure Coach Bill is always going to be Coach Bill. That's not going to change.

Asked for an innocuous "update" on Brady's ankle, the mentor was in fine form here, swatting that tepid query out of the park with just a half swing.

"We'll update the injury report on Wednesday when we're required to do that by the league," he cooed. "We're looking forward to it, too."

This, in case you don't know it, is Coach Bill's idea of podium humor. It's the second time he's employed the "looking forward to it" shtick this week. You think if his quarterback really had something seriously wrong with him he'd be quite so mirthful?

Unlike his coach, Brady acknowledged the injury. He said it happened sometime in the third quarter of the San Diego Chargers game last Sunday, but he was otherwise lacking in detail. He did reveal that, though he did not formally practice last week, he was out there with a football in his hand.

"I've done it just a little bit," he said. "I was jogging around, shuffling. I didn't throw as much as I would if I were practicing, but it was enough to know I can play."

The rest of the Brady interview was pretty much boilerplate, although he did make an interesting reference to Super Bowl XLII and the week leading up to it.

"We're incredibly proud of what we've accomplished," he declared, "and we're always going to remember this week for the rest of our lives - win or lose. But we want to remember it for the right reasons."

He talked once again about growing up in the Bay Area as a 49er fan and cheering them on to those four Super Bowls.

"Joe Montana is the greatest of all-time, and he always will be," Brady said. "I looked up to Joe and Steve [Young]. Those guys were the best. Now, playing in the game for the fourth time, that never gets old."

The coach had brought out the heavy verbal artillery in praise of Brady, of course, lauding Brady's work habits and preparation and saying how thrilled he was to coach him. None of this is new news.

As far as Brady's personal life is concerned, Belichick sounded impressed, more than anything.

"He's just great to work with," said Coach Bill. "How he manages his personal life, I'd say he's done a real good job with it."

The ankle is not going to be an issue, and neither is Brady's overall M.O. He insisted he doesn't go out much, anyway, and he surely isn't going to be sampling any Phoenix night life while he's here.

Brady has proven rather conclusively that he knows how to operate once he gets to a Super Bowl. He knows the stakes and he knows how to get ready. All that other stuff is in the rearview mirror.

But the fact remains that Brady could have avoided all the nonsense last week. He had to know that going to New York was asking for trouble. The incident with the Yankee hat should have been a dress rehearsal. Well, he knows it now.

Oh, in case you're wondering, Tom says he doesn't know whether or not Gisele is coming to the game.

Stop it. Don't tell me you weren't asking.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is ryan@globe.com.

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