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Patriots are getting a healthy dose of Brady

An intense rehabilitation program has helped Tom Brady regain top form. An intense rehabilitation program has helped Tom Brady regain top form. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
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By Albert R. Breer
Globe Staff / November 5, 2009

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Maybe you’re skeptical that the 1,033 yards and 94 points the Patriots have posted over their last two games are a simple byproduct of playing teams that are a combined 1-13.

Maybe you’re not sure that Tom Brady is all the way back.

Maybe you shouldn’t worry about it.

“I would say that the Patriots I’ve seen the last couple weeks is the real Patriots offense,’’ Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. “What I mean by that is, I’m sure, like anybody else, time makes you a little bit better and makes you a little bit sharper. Those guys are pretty sharp right now.’’

Sparano’s comments, no doubt, referred to Brady’s reacclimation into the New England offense, a process that was hardly instantaneous, but one that is nearly unavoidable for quarterbacks coming off the kind of knee reconstruction he had.

Yet, through seven games, Brady is on pace to throw for more yards (4,645) and touch downs (34), and fewer interceptions (9) than in any of his previous eight years as a starter, with the exception of 2007. Even better, he’s on pace to take fewer sacks (18) than in any year, including 2007, a sure sign his mobility and pocket awareness have returned. Better still, Brady insists this is the best he’s ever felt.

“Why do I think I’m feeling better?’’ Brady repeated, as the question was asked yesterday. “I don’t think I’ve been hit a whole lot this year. It’s just been one of those seasons where there haven’t been many sacks. I understand how to take care of my body and the treatment I need. It’s been a good year.’’

And there’s reason to believe every last word of what Brady said is the truth.

Alex Guerrero, Brady’s Utah-based trainer who spent the winter months in Southern California directing the quarterback’s rehab, can vouch for him.

“What I really appreciate about Tom is he’s so disciplined and dedicated to every aspect of football, and it shows in his work,’’ Guerrero said. “If it takes two hours, it’s not going to get cut short. It’s going to be two hours, no excuses. And if it’s going to be two hours, three times a day, that’s what it’ll be.’’

Truth is, it normally wasn’t three times a day. It was four; twice in the morning, once in afternoon, and again in the early evening.

It really ratcheted up in late February, with Brady’s knee back at full strength - a pretty amazing feat in itself, given that he had the surgery in October, and got an infection drained shortly thereafter.

But perhaps most impressive was that Brady wasn’t solely focused on his knee.

He also did plenty of core work. And he continued with an innovative shoulder program that he and Guerrero devised, something that’s off the board enough that Guerrero politely declined to describe it. What he would say was that Brady’s diligence with that work is a big reason the quarterback says he no longer gets the arm soreness he did earlier in his career.

“We’ve developed a system of working his muscle and putting it through more stress than the stress of throwing the football itself,’’ Guerrero said. “His muscles are educated now to throw a lot of balls and not have soreness.

“What I will say is we’ve come up with a pretty neat approach to keeping him feeling really, really good. But it’s not something I’ve ever talked about.’’

To Guerrero, Brady’s ability to sustain the kind of hit Albert Haynesworth laid on him in the preseason - crumpling the quarterback under 350 pounds - was proof positive that the quarterback’s hard work was paying off. If he’d just worried about rehabbing his knee, the result might’ve been uglier. Because he worked his shoulder and core, it wasn’t.

Still, early in the season, as Guerrero monitored the quarterback, there were certain things that were just a little off mechanically - his follow-through, his balance, his timing in the pocket.

That’s not the case anymore. What Guerrero called “the transformation’’ came in Week 4, when the Ravens visited Foxborough, and Brady completed 66 percent of his passes for 258 yards, a touchdown, and no picks.

“His confidence with his body was back, you could see it,’’ Guerrero said. “He’s totally confident with the program, how the knee feels, how his arm feels, how he’s going to feel after the game.

“What I see is just more confidence. He’s out there playing football the way Tom Brady knows how to play. He’s not changing his mechanics to protect his knee or shoulder. He’s back to just playing.’’

The rewards for Brady in this process have come in different forms.

In March, they arrived as he tested stronger and faster in every single one of the Patriots’ strength and agility drills than he ever had, just five months off surgery. In August, they cropped up as he told Guerrero, after eight consecutive days of double sessions in training camp, that he felt as fresh as he did at the start of that stretch.

And now, they’re being manifested where it’s most important: in his play. He may not admit it, but there’s some significance to the timing here, too.

Brady was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for October. The month of his 2008 surgery? You got it. October.

“I have pretty high expectations for myself,’’ Brady said. “If there are guys that are open and I don’t hit them, it’s usually not a very good week for me. That’s kind of how you judge your performance. Did I do my job? Did I do what the coach asked me to do? Did we win the game?’’

All fair questions.

But as for the big one - how’s the knee? - Brady has already given his answer.

Albert R. Breer can be reached at abreer@globe.com.

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