THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Silent Brady the talk of camp

By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / July 31, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - It was one of those intersections of pigskin and pop culture that happens when the subject is Tom Brady.

Brady didn’t talk yesterday, the opening day of training camp, but the quarterback was still the talk of camp. Players who did address the media were asked about him and his comeback from torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee.

One inquisitor asked veteran running back Kevin Faulk if he thought Brady was the same person since he suffered the injury in the team’s 2008 season opener Sept. 7, because Brady had married Gisele Bundchen since the last time he played.

“He’s the same Tom Brady I know,’’ said Faulk. “I got married a few years ago, too, but nobody talked about that. I was the same guy, so he’s just the same guy.’’

Brady was on the field for both practices yesterday, sporting a brace on his left knee, nine months and 24 days removed from his surgery Oct. 6 and light years away from the dire predictions that followed the staph in fection he developed in the knee after the surgery. The crowd, able to see him live for the first time since he crumpled to the ground against the Chiefs, cheered for him in the first session and he acknowledged them with a quick wave.

Unlike the Foxborough faithful, Brady’s teammates, now used to having him back on the field after he participated in organized team activities and last month’s mandatory minicamp, were not watching his every move, trying to gauge whether he was going to be the same player who led the team to three Super Bowl titles or who rewrote the record books with 50 touchdown passes on his way to being the league’s most valuable player in 2007.

Affirmation of Brady’s return already resonated in the locker room.

“We’ve been through minicamps. We’ve seen him then. We’ve been working with him this whole offseason,’’ said wide receiver Wes Welker. “It’s no surprise how he’s able to come out there and get in the flow of things pretty early on.’’

“When he’s out there, he’s out there,’’ added Faulk. “Nobody is paying attention to if he’s doing something different from when he was here last year. He’s just playing football. That’s it.’’

Coach Bill Belichick did briefly acknowledge the significance of having Brady ready to go for training camp.

“It’s always good to see Tom out there,’’ said Belichick. “It’s good to see all the players out there. Tom has worked very hard to get back on the field in his rehab and doing what he did in the spring. He’s certainly a big presence on our team. It’s good to see him back out there. Terrence Wheatley, Adalius Thomas, Laurence Maroney, you can go right down the line, it’s good to see a lot of those guys out there who didn’t finish the season for us.’’

Belichick deflected a question about how much he planned to play Brady during the preseason. Brady didn’t play in any exhibition games last season because of a foot injury.

Only time and game action will tell what residual effects and remaining obstacles - both physical and mental - Brady has to overcome. But while his comeback is a hot topic around the league, it’s in some ways old news already for the Patriots.

That’s why when Welker was asked about Brady being rusty after playing just 15 snaps last season, he dismissed the notion.

“I don’t think so. I don’t think he expects that,’’ said Welker. “I don’t think we really expect that. We expect to go out there and execute our plays to the best of our ability. We don’t really look to have any setbacks or Tom is rusty or anything like that. We’re planning on pushing forward and going out there and trying to make plays every time we step on the field.’’

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

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