Patriots QB Tom Brady -- even as a guy who has been the field general for three championship teams, and another one that reached a Super Bowl -- probably has never seen the level of scrutiny he has this year.
His personal life is covered as if it's some sort of "team" by the gossip columns. And his reconstructed left knee has made it so the reaction to every off throw, or missed read has been "Uh-oh."
What's refreshing, though, is that Brady sees the forest, rather than the trees. Surely, he's seen the kind of beating other quarterbacks in other cities have taken, and understands where he's at.
"I havenít heard a whole lot of criticism," Brady said. "I think Iíve been very lucky over the years, to play on a great team where we won a lot of games. If thatís criticism, then I welcome that. Itís been pretty good for me."
So is he the same Brady? Well, I think it's interesting to take the numbers, if 2007 isn't your only frame of reference. Brady's on pace for 4,645 yards. That -- outside of 2007 -- is a career best. Ditto for completion percentage (65.9), touchdowns (34), and interceptions (9). And in 2007, he took a career-low 21 sacks, a number he's on pace to best this year (pace: 18), and a sign that he's moving around fine.
Remember, in 2007, he had the kind of season few quarterbacks have ever had, and there's a reason why those are pretty rare, and that's not because they come easy.
Still, Brady was fairly frank in pointing the finger at himself, in certain circumstances. In particular, those comments seemed aimed at a little bit of a downfield disconnect between he and Randy Moss.
Then again, there's a reason why those throws are low-percentage ones.
"What weíve seen all year is when we execute well, we produce points, we move the ball, we get first downs," Brady said. "And when we donít execute well, we donít move the ball, we donít convert on third down, we donít get the ball in the red area. If youíre the quarterback and you have guys open and you overthrow them by five yards, youíre not gonna score points.
"Thatís understanding plays weíve had where we havenít done what we were coached to do. Thatís just not the way you play football."
But in general, Brady seems on his way. Statistically and otherwise. And he should be.
His rehab, at least from a medical standpoint, was complete in February, to the point where his trainer told me he was able to do everything that was asked of him. The next step was getting on the field, and now, it seems, that transition is coming close to complete.