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Back in focus

Posted by Gabe Kahn March 5, 2009 05:57 AM

BY LENNY MEGLIOLA

Every move you make, every step you take, Iíll be watching you. ó The Police, ďEvery Breath You TakeĒ

That would be you, Tom Brady. Yes, I know, you are probably thinking, ďWhatís new? Yíall been watching me forever. I walk Giseleís dog, youíre there. She hand-feeds me on vacation, youíre there. I cough, and itís a sound bite.

ďYouíre there, every step I take.Ē

Thatís correct, Tom, and we do apologize. We feel your pain. A public life can be hell. Too bad you canít give the slip to the paparazzi and burn the tabloids. You just canít seem to step out of your long shadow. Damn shame.

And yet, Iíd be hard pressed to find a guy in the Western Hemisphere who wouldnít swap lives with you in a heartbeat. For just a day!

But, hey, letís talk football. Youíve had a Hall of Fame career, but you had a lousy eight minutes last season, because that was your season. Somehow, the Patriots got by without you. Well, almost. They didnít make the playoffs, and everybody knows they would have if youíd been around. Not that that Cassel guy was all that bad. No, no.

Well, Matt Casselís going to Kansas City, and even if that deal hadnít been struck, Tom, the most compelling story of the 2009 season was going to be whether you could work your magic again. No use asking how youíre doing. Sure, youíve been subjected to a couple of on-camera moments, but all youíve said is that the knee is coming along fine, rehabís right on schedule, blah blah blah. In Foxborough, itís easier to get a bank loan than to pry loose info about how itís going for you. The Belichickian silence is deafening.

But they dumped Cassel, so they must totally buy into the notion that youíll be good to go in the season opener and beyond. And thatís OK. Because we know, and you know, that nobodyís going to truly know if you can play until you step on the field. I mean really play, at the otherworldly high level you once did. There was nobody better than the old Tom Brady. So you can keep saying the rehab is going just swell, and the Patriots brass can keep the duct tape over their mouths, because the answers will come in time. The questions: a) can you again be transcendent? b) can you play without pain? c) can you take a sack? d) is your career over?

Until then, itís all a guessing game.

The Pats usually have a passing camp in May or June. Will you be there? Camp starts for real in July. The team isnít going to rush you. Thereíll be so many medical people around, youíll think youíre on the fourth floor at Mass. General.

Flex the knee. Jog a little. Keep it simple. No grimace? Good. One day at a time. If you get to the preseason without any missteps, the next step is preseason games, with unsympathetic 275-pound defensive ends aiming to flatten you. Weíll really be tuned in to that, unless the Pats hold you back for the season opener. If youíre even ready for that.

Nobody can say right now, and thatís the point. Itís all guessing and praying. Iíll bet itís crossed your mind once or twice that you may have played your last game. Thatís only human nature.

When that day actually comes, when you walk away from football, nobody will be more relieved than your mom and dad, Galynn and big Tom. Your father told me once that he and your mom couldnít wait for you to retire. They worry. Most parents worry about their sons getting hurt playing football. Thatís why the country has been overrun by soccer moms.

There was that day you were playing for Michigan and got cold-cocked. You wound up in the locker room, and when your parents got there, you were vague and punchy. That amped up their concern for your well-being.

Your dad has picked up a lot of frequent-flier miles following your football career. He told me that when youíre about to get sacked, he and your mother turn their heads. When they look back, they just hope youíre on your feet.

When that final game arrives, your parents will be crying out of a sense of relief. No regrets. You did all right for a sixth-round pick and a fourth-stringer. Canton, Ohio, beckons.

You once said this about injuries: ďYou can feel sorry for yourself, be discouraged, and whine and complain, but that doesnít get you anywhere.Ē

You were almost never satisfied with your performance. You said, at the zenith of your career, ďI donít think anything is as good as I would like.Ē

One can only imagine what your life will be like after football. I think youíll manage. You never were the typical jock. After beating the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII, you and then-girlfriend Bridget Moynahan jetted to Europe. ďHe wanted to get away and broaden his life,Ē your father told me. You liked art, history. Youíd always been the curious kind, he said.

But Europe wasnít the clean getaway you were looking for. You were about to discover the impact of being a Super Bowl MVP. At the Vatican, you got an audience with the pope. Some paparazzi (theyíre everywhere!) snapped a photo of the meeting. It got around. The photo was taken not because it was the pope; it was because the pope was with the Super Bowl MVP.

Your fishbowl had gotten smaller. In Rome, of all places. That fishbowl is being squeezed even tighter now, because youíre not the reigning Super Bowl MVP anymore, and itís fair to wonder if youíll ever be that guy again. Youíre making a comeback!

Every move you make, every step you take ... everybody will be watching.

Everybody.

Veteran sports columnist Lenny Megliola is an OT contributor and can be reached at otfeedback@globe.com

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