FOXBOROUGH, Mass. >> Tom Brady glanced down at his left knee brace, the one he wasn’t wearing when he was injured last week.
It was on at practice Monday, with some encouragement from Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
“Mr. Kraft felt pretty strongly about me wearing it,” Brady told a pack of reporters. “He said, ‘What’s the problem?’ I said, ‘I’ll wear it. I’ll wear it.'”
No sense taking chances with the two-time NFL MVP and the key to the success of New England’s rebuilt offense.
The sprained knee Brady suffered at practice last Wednesday sent chills through Patriots fans and was still a major subject on Monday, the first time Brady spoke to the media since the incident.
The Patriots never made an announcement about the injury, but Brady knew he was OK soon after he was knocked over by left tackle Nate Solder, who had been pushed back by Tampa Bay defensive end Adrian Clayborn during a joint practice.
He knew the injury wasn’t going to be serious “as soon as I got inside and had our trainers get a chance to look at it,” he said. “There’re a lot worse injuries that I’ve had and a lot of guys have played with far worse.
“I felt bad that it got the attention that it did because a lot of guys deal with a lot of stuff on a daily basis. I’m just lucky to be out here. After what happened to me in 2008, I love coming out to practice and playing and nothing is as exciting as that for me.”
Brady suffered a season-ending injury to the same knee in the 2008 opener. He hasn’t missed a game since.
He participated fully in practice last Thursday then played the first two series of Friday night’s 25-21 exhibition victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He completed 11 of 12 passes for 107 yards and one touchdown and is 18 for 20 for 172 yards and two touchdowns in four series going into Thursday night’s game against the Detroit Lions.
Still, he had a moment of concern immediately after being knocked down at practice as he released a deep incompletion toward rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson.
“Any time you go down, it’s a little scary, but that’s the sport,” Brady said. “It happens in the games. It happens in practice and I’m certainly not the first or the last to have it happen. I’m fortunate that it wasn’t very bad, so … I was able to get treatment and get back out on the field with my teammates and get back to work.”
Later in the day, all the phone calls and emails he received showed the depth of concern fans had about the possibility he was injured seriously.
“There were a lot of people that took time out of their day, which was pretty thoughtful, and I appreciate it,” Brady said, “but I just wish it wasn’t under those circumstances.”
With coach Bill Belichick keeping a tight lid on any information issued by the team, there wasn’t much Brady could do to calm fans’ jittery nerves.
“I don’t want to make a big fuss about it,” he said, “but at that time, I didn’t have too much of a choice, so you just roll with it. It wasn’t my decision.”
When he returned to practice last Thursday, he was wearing the black brace with silver hinges that he also had on Monday.
Not that he enjoys it.
“Sometimes when you wear the brace a lot then you get used to wearing the brace,” Brady said. “I like to keep a nice strong leg. If it wasn’t strong, then something bad would have happened.”
If it did, the Patriots would have been in trouble.
Second-string quarterback Ryan Mallett has been inconsistent in the two exhibition games with 21 completions in 38 attempts for 234 yards and one touchdown. Third-stringer Tim Tebow has been much worse with five completions in 19 attempts for 54 yards and one interception, although he has gained 61 yards on 10 rushes.
Both have a long way to go. Brady isn’t where he wants to be either.
“I always feel like I can do more and prepare more and study more and work more, get better footwork and throwing mechanics and timing,” he said. “So as much time as I can get, I’ll take.”
Luckily for him, his knee injury took away only about an hour of his practice last Wednesday.
Now that he’s wearing the brace, his knee has better protection.
“I had it today,” Brady said. “So everyone was very pleased.”
Kraft is one of them.
“He wasn’t panicked,” Brady said. “He’s never very panicked. He’s always very composed.”