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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Brady says he's ready to play

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- Tom Brady ran through agility drills and said he's ready to play in the New England Patriots' opener. Bill Belichick isn't ready to say that will happen.

Neither is much of a surprise.

It would be a big surprise if the record-setting quarterback, who had a right foot injury and missed all four exhibition games, doesn't start Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"If it's up to me, there's no question" Brady said Monday. "I've been getting progressively better over the past couple of weeks. I'm excited. I'm excited to start the year."

The secretive Belichick deflected a question about whether last season's NFL MVP would start Sunday.

"We will give you the injury report on Friday," he told reporters Monday. "We will give you the practice report after we practice."

Brady didn't want to anger a coach who tells his players not to reveal too much injury information. So he wouldn't estimate how close to 100 percent he was health-wise.

"I don't know," Brady said with a smile. "Coach hates percentages, so I usually don't give them. I have been yelled at more times with comments I make so I am laying off that one. Write that, so he reads that, too."

No matter the percentage, all signs point to Brady extending his playing streak to 128 games, third most in history among NFL quarterbacks. Only Brett Favre (275) and Peyton Manning (173) have longer streaks, and both are still going on.

And now the exhibition games are over.

"I felt like I could play all of them and I practiced the entire preseason, pretty much," Brady said. "The decision was made that, OK, Tom, you're not going to play, and I was fine with it."

A week ago, Brady said he would be ready for the Chiefs. Since then, he said, his foot has improved "quite a bit."

He also did everything the other quarterbacks, running backs and receivers did during the first 15 minutes of practice Monday that media members were allowed to observe. They stretched then jogged to the end zone for the agility drills.

The Patriots, with no proven backup, can't afford to be without Brady, who set an NFL record with 50 touchdown passes last season.

Matt Cassel, starting his fourth season as the No. 2 quarterback, couldn't lead the Patriots to a touchdown in 17 exhibition series. Kevin O'Connell, the Patriots third-round draft pick, is highly regarded but is just a rookie.

Tackle Matt Light missed the first three exhibition games and guard Stephen Neal missed all four. So Belichick played it safe by not risking Brady's health with two starters missing from the offensive line.

After eight seasons in the NFL, Brady expects to make a smooth transition to playing in a game even without the exhibition contests, all of them losses.

"Throwing so many footballs over the course of my life, it's not like I need to learn how to throw a football or take a drop or make a read," Brady said. "All the plays that are in the playbook are ones that were put in when I was here, so I was a part of all those conversations.

"It's just a matter of going out and doing it at a faster speed," he said. "I've played in a lot of those games to know what that speed is and, hopefully, I'm prepared for it."

Besides, Randy Moss sat out all four exhibition games last year and still caught an NFL record 23 touchdown passes. And that was his first year with the Patriots.

"The whole team is ready for Tom to come back," Moss said Sunday. "He is the leader of this team. He does some great things out there on the field with the ball."

On Monday, Light sounded optimistic about Brady's return.

"The way he directs things out there is what puts us in the right position to make these plays," Light said. "So it's good to have him back."

That should happen on Sunday now that his injured foot has improved.

"I think we have moved past that," Brady said. "I was out there practicing yesterday and I am going out there to practice today. Hopefully, I will be practicing enough the rest of the week to give everybody enough confidence to know that I will be OK if I go out there."

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