The Inside Word: Brady In The Clear

Wondering if Tom Brady's multiple infections and multiple operations will cut short a distinguished NFL career? One NFL Insider reports that the Patriots quarterback is in the clear to lead the team in 2009. Will he get the chance though with Matt Cassel playing so well?

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had his season cut short when Kansas City Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard rolled into his left leg as he was throwing. The hit tore ligaments in Brady's knee, which required surgery to repair, ending his season after just one half of play. Unfortunately for Brady, there were complications from post surgery recovery. It appears those complications may be history, and the path is clear for a return for Brady to the head of the Patriots offense.

Brady had multiple operations to repair a torn tendon in his left knee following the Chiefs game. The recovery process included surgical procedures to address post-op complications arising from infection. Some reports indicate that the setback in his rehab may cost him playing time in 2009. Other reports went as far as to say the complications could be career-threatening.

Brady declined to discuss the state of his recovery while attending a charitable event in Massachusetts recently, but NFL Insider Charley Casserly has an update.

"Good news for the New England Patriots and Tom Brady," Casserly said on CBS's pregame coverage. "He's off antibiotics. The infection he had when he had the repair of his knee when he had the ACL is gone. Therefore he's back on his rehab schedule and should be ready for training camp and the season next year."

Casserly's report confirms what Patriots Insider has been told by other NFL insiders -- Tom Brady will be back in time for Patriots training camp.

Although the Patriots won't know if Brady can play on his repaired knee until next summer, they have to make a decision on their current quarterback, Matt Cassel, well before then. Cassel's contract expires at the end of the season. Cassel will become a free agent before the Draft. If New England wants assurances that they'll have someone available to lead the team in 2009, they're going to either gamble that Brady's knee will be fine, or they're going to have to use the franchise tag on Matt Cassel.

What the future holds for Cassel, Brady and the Patriots remains to be seen. At this point, no one in the loop is talking. And while Cassel is set to earn a huge pay raise next season, he claims he's not looking forward to it… at least not yet.

Cassel admits he hears from his agent David Dunn once to twice a week, but claims he isn't looking at the future and the big payday that comes with it.

"Right now I'm just trying to finish this thing off strong and get this team into the playoffs, Cassel said during an interview on WEEI radio Monday. "Hopefully we can make a run and go from there. And I'll worry about the future later."

With Brady's recovery back on track and Cassel's pending financial windfall, the 2009 version of the patriots may look a lot like the 2005,6 and 7 versions, only now without a backup QB no one thought could play.

While it's possible the Patriots try to retain both Brady and Cassel, it's looking more likely that the team will go back to Brady and allow Cassel to play elsewhere in '09. The Patriots could franchise Cassel to keep him off the street until they can trade him, but to do that, they need to find $14 million in cap space. According to one NFL Insider, that's the smart bet. If you're a team looking to land Matt Cassel next year, find a way to get the Patriots to trade him, cheap.

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