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Touch down

Patriots land in Ariz.; Brady says he'll play

Email|Print| Text size + By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / January 28, 2008

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Breathe easy Patriots fans, your hobbled hero quarterback arrived in Arizona in one piece and said that his balky right ankle won't keep him from playing in Super Bowl XLII.

Brady, who said he was "feeling good", revealed he suffered what has been termed a mild high ankle sprain in the third quarter of the Patriots' 21-12 AFC Championship game win over the San Diego Chargers last Sunday. Yesterday, in his introductory Super Bowl news conference, he ambled up the steps of the podium at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa without a hitch and pronounced he would play Sunday against the New York Giants as the Patriots try to complete their perfect season.

The only thing on the NFL MVP that appeared to be hurting was his memory. When asked how this ankle injury compared with the one he had before Super Bowl XXXVI, Brady said he couldn't remember that one before declaring he would play in his fourth Super Bowl.

"This won't keep me out this game and that didn't keep me out of that game," said Brady, who was not wearing the famous walking boot he was photographed with last Monday in New York, touching off L'affaire Ankle.

Brady, who threw an NFL-record 50 touchdown passes this season, admitted he did not take the field for practice in Foxborough last week, sitting out sessions Thursday and Friday. He said that since suffering the injury against San Diego he has jogged around on the ankle, shuffled on it, dropped back and thrown the ball a little bit.

"Not as much as I would have if I've been practicing, but enough to know that I realize that I'm going to be able to play Sunday," Brady said.

However, neither Brady nor Patriots coach Bill Belichick would say definitively that the quarterback, who is seeking his fourth Super Bowl title, matching the marks of Pittsburgh Steelers great Terry Bradshaw and Brady's boyhood idol, San Francisco 49ers QB Joe Montana, would be at practice today.

When asked about Brady's status, Belichick said the team would have an update when it was required to by the league, which is on Wednesday, when the injury report is released.

"I'm looking forward to that," said the coach.

Brady was slightly more revealing, saying, "I think we need three good days of practice, which I hope to be participating in," said No. 12.

Brady was much more decisive when asked if his ankle injury hindered his performance against the Chargers. He was 22 of 33 for 209 yards and two touchdowns, but threw three interceptions, including one to Antonio Cromartie in the end zone late in the third quarter.

"I wish I could blame them on that," he said.

Judging by the fact that Brady said he hurt the ankle early in the third quarter and a review of the coaches' tape of the game by ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, the play that appears to have caused Brady's ankle injury was a sack by Luis Castillo on second and 9 from the San Diego 47 with 13:15 left in the third quarter.

On his very next throw he was intercepted by Drayton Florence, his second interception of the game.

Originally, Brady was supposed to speak along with five of his teammates, but there was so much interest in the quarterback's ankle injury that television cameras were camped out 35 minutes before the Patriots plane even had touched down.

The manner in which Brady's ankle injury was discovered - paparazzi waiting outside the New York residence of his supermodel girlfriend Gisele Bundchen snapped him wearing the walking boot as he arrived at her home, and a 1 minute, 18 second video popped up on the popular gossip site TMZ.com - was almost as shocking as the injury itself.

Brady admitted he was surprised.

"I was just trying to get into the house as fast as I could, trying to just hobble around. It kind of caught me off guard," he said. "I think that's just part of the world we're living in these days.

"'I guess it's a good problem to have because we're winning football games. If we're 0-16, then nobody gives a crap. I'll take it to end up here [at the Super Bowl]."

Brady said he would never let his celebrity affect his performance, saying "none of this gets in the way of what's most important, which is playing quarterback."

Belichick echoed those sentiments.

"Nobody works harder, is more prepared, and is more of a professional than Tom Brady," said Belichick. "I've enjoyed every opportunity to coach him. However he manages his life, he does a real good job of it."

Afterward, Brady and Belichick shared a moment as they crossed paths coming to and from the podium. Brady smiled at Belichick and said, "You got them warmed up for me."

But in his news conference he clearly tried to cool the ankle talk. He even managed to try to spin it into a positive.

"I'm not concerned," said Brady. "I'm really not. I think it was a good week in terms of mental preparation. It's where I feel really energized. I'm not concerned about how it's going to affect my performance. I can't run anyways."

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com.

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