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Brady ticketed for start

QB is primed to go in exhibition opener

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By Mike Reiss
Globe Staff / August 12, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - Patriots owner Robert Kraft is so confident that Tom Brady will start in the team’s preseason opener tomorrow night against the Eagles that he will hand out 1,000 lottery tickets with the team’s logo if Brady doesn’t.

Kraft’s gamble is no surprise, considering Brady’s workload through the first 22 practices of training camp. Unlike past years when Brady has taken days off to rest his arm, he hasn’t missed a single practice this year.

His participation highlights the overriding theme of training camp, as the Patriots have entered the year with a full-tilt, full-time type of approach.

“I’m ready. I’m expecting to play,’’ Brady told reporters yesterday between hot, humid practices. “There is no reason why I wouldn’t. I’ve been out here doing everything. It will be nice to get out there and play some football.’’

Tomorrow’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia will mark Brady’s first on-field action since tearing ligaments in his left knee in last year’s season opener against the Chiefs.

Reflecting on the devastating hit from Kansas City safety Bernard Pollard, Brady said yesterday he “certainly didn’t think what happened was a cheap shot,’’ while also saying that he knows it could happen again. Such an acknowledgment seems tied to how Brady has attempted to tackle the mental aspect of his recovery, which other players who have had similar injuries - such as Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer - feel can be as hard as the physical rehabilitation.

“I’m really not nervous about any of that,’’ Brady told a large gathering of reporters, who peppered him on his playing status, his recent appearance on the HBO television show “Entourage,’’ and his health.

“It is part of football. You line up and play and it’s a physical sport. I’ve really put it past me, I really have. I’ve tried to make a concerted effort to move forward with everything about last season and learn from the experiences and use them in positive ways.’’

Part of Brady’s approach this training camp has been to step on the gas pedal and never let up, participating aggressively in every practice and oftentimes setting the tone for the rest of the team.

When he had days off in past years, Brady joked that he was getting old. He also previously talked about being on a pitch count to preserve his arm. This year, he chuckled that while he’s 32, he’s reversing the trend and “getting younger now.’’

“I just feel great,’’ he said. “I want to be out here playing and I want to be out here with my teammates. It’s no fun being inside all day; I’d rather be out here practicing and getting better.’’

Brady was evasive when asked what a realistic workload would be tomorrow night, saying he didn’t know how much he would play. Like everyone else, he’s been reading the tea leaves from coach Bill Belichick.

“It’s been a different training camp this year,’’ said Brady. “I don’t know what he’s got in store. From his tone and the message he’s been sending to the team, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a [standard] first preseason game for us. I don’t think it’s like a guest appearance or anything like that. I think we’re going out there to play.’’

Brady then described how training camp has been different.

“Just the amount of practices we’ve had. It’s really been an up-tempo camp,’’ he said. “There has been no down time. We meet three times a day, we practice twice a day. We have night meetings. We’ve had one day off in about 2 1/2 weeks.

“Before, the schedule has been different and you’ve had a chance to catch your breath a little bit. Not this year. We just keep getting after it. There has been padded practices almost every day [15 of 22 sessions] and I think the guys have responded to the challenge.’’

Kraft also noted the change, saying, “This is Bill’s 10th year and I think you’ve seen, this training camp, he’s never worked harder. The players have never worked harder.’’

Brady has led the charge, which he’ll do once again tomorrow night.

“I’m more excited than anything,’’ he said. “There is nothing to be nervous about for me.’’

Mike Reiss can be reached at mreiss@globe.com.

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