The Brady Watch Is On

Is there anything that would cause a bigger stir in the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLII than the idea that reigning NFL MVP and New England iron man quarterback Tom Brady might be hurt?

But that's exactly the stir that was created Monday when Brady was photographed in New York and shown in a video posted on the gossip website TMZ.com wearing an immobilizing walking boot. In the video Brady is carrying flowers and a duffel bag, reportedly entering the apartment of his supermodel girlfriend Gisele Bundchen. Somewhat disguised by his sunglasses and hooded sweatshirt, Brady had the boot on his right foot.

The photo drew newspaper headlines in both New York and Boston. The New York Post put the photo on its front page with the headline: "Who's afraid of Tom Brady now? Girlie man limps home." Closer to home the Boston Herald's front page read, "UH OH."

Not surprisingly, the Patriots had no comment on the photo and the players are off until Thursday when the team will return to Gillette Stadium to begin preparations to take on the Giants. The first Super Bowl XLII injury report won't be issued for more than a week, not due until the Wednesday (Jan. 30) before the game.

The unknown injury to Brady comes after one of his worst games of the year in the Patriots' 21-12 victory over the Chargers in the AFC Championship. After throwing just eight interceptions all season, Brady threw three picks against San Diego on the chill Sunday in Foxborough. He also had plenty of other passes that were off the mark, some sailing wildly past his intended target while others were hauled in thanks to nice grabs by his receivers, most notably running back Kevin Faulk.

Brady finished the win completing 22-of-33 passes for 209 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions while getting sacked twice. His 66.4 passer rating was his second lowest of the season.

After the win Brady sported a noticeable limp, especially when walking away from the podium following his postgame press conference. CBS cameras also showed Brady having his leg looked at by New England's medical staff in the fourth quarter against San Diego. Asked about it in his weekly, paid Monday morning appearance on Boston sports radio station WEEI, Brady answered in a somewhat indirect fashion.

"There are always kind of bumps and bruises. I'll be ready for the Super Bowl. I'm not missing this one. I'd have to be on a stretcher to miss this one," Brady said. "There will just be some treatment this week and, like I said, games like this (against the Chargers) you get a little nicked up, but it's nothing serious."

The type of walking boot Brady was seen wearing can be used to treat a variety of different lower leg and foot injuries ranging from minor to major. The fact that the two-time Super Bowl MVP was photographed in New York, not back in New England getting medical treatment, could mean the boot is a precautionary measure to immobilize the foot and promote healing of a minor injury so that he's ready to prepare for the Giants later in the week. As is the case with any injured Patriots, never mind the franchise quarterback, no information will be issued on the situation until next week's injury report.

Fans across the country have just less than two weeks to ponder the Patriots passer and his health status for Sunday, Feb. 3. Patriots Nation holds its breath hoping to see Brady make his 112th consecutive start at University of Phoenix Stadium. Giants fans and Patriots-haters are dreaming of just the opposite.

And the pregame hype has an extra, unexpected bonus storyline to follow.

Notes:

--WR Wes Welker, having made his postseason debut for New England, is the Patriots' leading playoff receiver through two games with 16 receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns.

--RB Laurence Maroney, who wilted down the stretch and in the postseason a year ago as a rookie, has exploded in his season playoff go-round with 47 rushes for 244 yards (5.2 avg.) and a pair of touchdowns in two games. Including the final three weeks of the regular season, Maroney has now rushed for more than 100 yards in four of his last five games.

--RB Kevin Faulk has been his usual unheralded playmaking self in the postseason. Faulk ranks second on the Patriots with 13 receptions for a team-high 118 yards in two postseason games to go along with five rushes for 17 yards.

--DL Richard Seymour responded to Chargers center Nick Hardwick's postgame comments that the five-time Pro Bowler was "cheap and dirty" and that he "plays like a punk."

"I thought it was classless, but I also understand he was hurt and frustrated," Seymour told the Boston Globe. "He's a grown man, and grown men usually try to own up to what happened and not rub it in, taking a loss like a man.

"We were into it the whole game. I wasn't taking any stuff. All of it came between the whistles. Me, I'm not going to go to the media and talk bad about someone. I take pride in not crying to the media about what goes on in the line of play. If I want to say something about that, I'm going to handle it on the field

"There's no battle of words, but you can't attack my character."

--WR Randy Moss -- one catch for 18 yards in the win over the Chargers -- was one of five different New England players to catch just a single pass in the AFC title win. FB Heath Evans, WR Jabar Gaffney, RB Laurence Maroney and TE Benjamin Watson were the others.

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