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Brady spins wheels

By Shalise Manza Young and Albert R. Breer
Globe Staff / June 6, 2010

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BARNSTABLE — Once upon a time, before he became an NFL star and a global fashion icon, a young quarterback named Tom Brady took part in an event called the Best Buddies Challenge, riding a bike with his sisters to raise money for developmentally challenged individuals.

Yesterday, the same Tom Brady, now quite a bit more well-known, was back at Craigville Beach for the Challenge. Though he undoubtedly is asked almost daily to lend his name to organizations, he continues to lend his support to Best Buddies, and now is chairman of the event.

“This was the first thing that I did when I came here [to New England],’’ he said. “My sisters and I all rode, I think it was 2000 or 2001, and it’s grown every year.’’

When he arrived at the parking lot, which had been turned into a makeshift bike track, Brady was like the Pied Piper, with families asking for his autograph or a picture. He obliged them all, as did Patriots coach Bill Belichick and players Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal, Tully Banta-Cain, and Pierre Woods.

Belichick rode in the 50-mile challenge from Carver to Craigville Beach, and the Patriots took part in the criterium races, riding tandem bikes with buddies on the track. Woods raced at least three times, miffed that Koppen had twice beaten him on the final turn.

Before heading off to the event-closing clam bake, Brady took a few minutes to talk leadership, expectations, and his relationship with Bill O’Brien.

On O’Brien, New England’s quarterbacks coach and de facto offensive coordinator, Brady gave his strongest support yet to the Massachusetts native.

“He’s a great guy, he’s a great coach, and I think more than anything he has the respect of the guys,’’ Brady said. “When he talks, everyone listens.’’

Last month, Brady talked about the lack of leadership on the Patriots last season, including his own shortcomings; on Wednesday, at the team’s OTA session behind Gillette Stadium, Brady seemed incredibly vocal, directing and showing receivers how he wanted a route run.

But he wouldn’t say whether it was part of a more concerted effort to be a better leader.

“We have a lot of leaders on our team,’’ he said. “As the quarterback, the guy calling the plays, people are going to listen to me. Hopefully the guys respect that.’’

Brady also alluded to the Patriots’ status as AFC East underdogs when he was asked about the expectations they face every year.

“The thing is, every year is a new year for us,’’ he said. “It’s like, what happened last year, it doesn’t matter. You could come in last place — it doesn’t matter, no one cares.

“It’s just a matter of the chemistry, how everything comes together. I’m hoping this is one of the years where we really go out there . . . there’s a lot of people making noise, and I kind of like sitting back a little bit and letting other teams have the attention.’’

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