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Brady being a team player

Role of lead plaintiff is out of responsibility

By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / April 30, 2011

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NEW YORK — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finally shed light on his decision to be the lead plaintiff in the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the NFL.

Brady said yesterday he and the other nine plaintiffs in the case, which include fellow marquee QBs Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, are trying to solve the labor dispute, not prolong it.

Following a promotional appearance for Under Armour, Brady also touched on his recovery from offseason foot surgery — “I feel good’’ — Patriots first-round pick Nate Solder, and the latest barb from Jets coach Rex Ryan.

Brady, who has not been a publicly outspoken part of the players’ cause, was asked if it was a difficult decision to lend his name to the lawsuit, known as Brady et al vs. NFL et al.

“I’m always trying to figure out what the right thing is,’’ he said. “I’ve been very fortunate as a player to sign the contracts that I’ve signed to be in the position that I’m in as a leader. That’s because of Boomer Esiason, who was the lead plaintiff in 1987. All the work that he fought for for the current players, it’s really a lasting legacy that Boomer has.

“When the opportunity is presented to me and someone like Peyton and Drew Brees . . . we represent the entire group. I think we’re all trying to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. I think that’s the important thing to realize.’’

At the owners’ meetings last month, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft said he liked to think that Brady was “conflicted’’ about the lawsuit. Brady downplayed the idea of conflict, saying that key players on both sides, such as Patriots owner Robert Kraft, union chief DeMaurice Smith, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, are working hard toward the same goal.

Brady told fans at the Under Armour appearance he believes there will be football played in 2011. Brady was meeting with 25 lucky fans as part of a promotional event for Under Armour, the athletic apparel and footwear company he endorses and has an equity stake. The fan forum was moderated by Esiason.

At the event, Brady wore a Bill Belichick-esque Under Armour zippered hoodie and was still sporting long hair. He was wearing wingtip shoes, with no sign of any special care for his surgically repaired right foot. Doctors inserted a pin into the foot Jan. 20 to address a stress fracture.

“I feel like anybody who has had surgery and had to go through rehabilitation,’’ said Brady. “We still got a long time until football season starts, and I’m just working my way back. I’m trying to get out there and throw as much as I can, and work out as much as I can.’’

During the fan Q&A, Brady was asked about the selection of left tackle Solder in the first round. He said picking an offensive lineman always makes a quarterback happy, but also voiced his affection for veteran left tackle and Patriots union representative Matt Light, who is a free agent.

“There is nobody that I love more than Matt Light,’’ Brady said. “He is an incredible player.’’

Brady seemed cool to the idea of Solder displacing Light.

“Look, it’s hard for a rookie to come in and play a big role,’’ said Brady. “Those rookies have a lot to learn, not only learning the playbook, but learning what it means to be a professional player. This is your job now.

“He’s going to be yelled at probably more than anybody on the field. I’m looking forward to that because Dante Scarnecchia yells at his offensive linemen, and he gets the best out of them. [Solder] was pretty happy last night, I saw. He might not be so happy come the start of training camp.’’

Being in New York, Brady was asked about the Jets and Ryan, who in his upcoming book said every man in America hates Brady, and Brady should be proud of it.

“As long as he hates me, I’m cool,’’ said Brady, who hasn’t hidden his hatred for the Jets. “I’m sure we’ll be prepared to play them when we do.’’

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com and can be read at www.boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.

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