One day after promising his ankle injury wouldn't keep him from preparing for and playing in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady was back in practice Monday.
He practiced with the New England Patriots for the first time since he was hurt against San Diego in the AFC championship game more than a week ago.
If the undefeated Patriots needed a lift as they prepared to play the New York Giants, they got one from Brady's return. The league MVP missed three workouts last week, but he was on the field, as usual, at Arizona State's practice facility in nearby Tempe.
"Anytime the MVP of the league is back, it has to be a positive," receiver Wes Welker said. "He looks good — the same dimples and all."
According to the Chicago Tribune's Dan Pompei, the designated pool reporter, the star quarterback appeared to have a slight limp. But he participated in all phases of practice, including jogging the length of the field twice at the end of drills.
Although Brady was not made available to the media — he will speak on Tuesday — his teammates had plenty to say about the record-setting quarterback's return.
"He's the leader of our team," said safety Rodney Harrison, one of the Patriots' defensive leaders. "He's special, and to have your No. 1 guy out there working hard and just being out there with his spirit, of course it brought a smile to our faces. Tom will be there Sunday, don't worry about that."
That's what Brady said shortly after arriving.
"I'm not concerned about how it's going to affect my play," he said Sunday night. "This won't keep me out."
Brady's health became an issue a week ago when he was spotted wearing a protective boot on his right foot while visiting supermodel girlfriend Gisele Bundchen in New York. He sat out all three practices in Foxborough, Mass., when much of the game plan was being installed.
Since becoming the starter in 2001, Brady has been remarkably durable. He's started every game in the last six seasons, and he was the MVP of the 2002 Super Bowl despite an ankle injury in the AFC title game.
"I never concern myself with anybody that we're playing with, whether it's Tom or anybody else," All-Pro tackle Matt Light said. "Their situation is their situation. Nobody knows what's going on other than him, and he's the only one who can answer those questions as to how he feels.
"I'll tell you one thing, if he's out there he's going to be giving you everything that he's got. I don't worry about that at all."
Asked how Brady fared in practice, Light's response drew chuckles: "I try not to look at him too much.
"You guys do enough of that," he added, drawing more laughs. "I'm concerned with what's right in front of me and I really haven't paid much attention to it."
Ah, but the rest of the world certainly has. Brady's foot overshadowed the Patriots moving in on the first perfect NFL season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Yes, the three-time champion quarterback's persona has transcended even the Super Bowl.
No matter how vigorously coach Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots want to ignore it, the questions about their biggest star's health will persist. Almost certainly, the answers will remain consistent, too.
"I think he got a lot of publicity last week for not what he wants to get publicity for," center Dan Koppen said. "I think he'll be OK.
"Tom's recognizable, and what he does is watched. We don't pay attention to it. If you guys want to report on it, then go ahead. Tom's a good guy who handles himself accordingly. I'm just thankful that he's on our team."
This program aired on January 29, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.