Thursday, January 31, 2002

Patriots' starting quarterback is Brady

Ankle improving, practice shows

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady walks with a wrapping on his left ankle as he departs the athletic center at Tulane University, following a team practice.
(AP photo)
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        NEW ORLEANS — After reviewing tape of Wednesday's practice, New England coach Bill Belichick decided to stay with his team's good-luck charm and announced that Tom Brady will start at quarterback against St. Louis in Sunday's Super Bowl.

        “Tom Brady demonstrated in practice today that he is fit to play,” Belichick said. “He will be our starting quarterback on Sunday.”

        Brady, 13-3 as New England's starter since taking over for then-injured Drew Bledsoe in Week 2, sprained his ankle Sunday in the AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh.

        Bledsoe relieved Brady and threw a touchdown pass, igniting a debate as to who should play against the Rams. Bledsoe signed a $100 million, 10-year contract extension with the Patriots in March.

        “I would certainly love to play in this game,” Bledsoe said before practice Wednesday at Tulane University.

        “They both worked, and I was satisfied with how they worked,” Belichick said after practice.

        Belichick asked the Professional Football Writers of America pool reporter watching practice not to disclose which quarterback took most of the snaps or which quarterback worked with the first team or the scout team.

        Whatever the reason for Belichick's gamesmanship, Rams coaches see too many similarities in the two quarterbacks to be too concerned.

        “We think they are basically the same type of quarterback; both are pocket quarterbacks,” Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith said Wednesday. “It's not like you're going from Donovan McNabb or Michael Vick to one of them. They are both good drop-back passers and we will game-plan pretty much the same.”

        Brady practiced with a brace on his left ankle but showed no signs of being slowed during full-speed drills.

        “I feel pretty good today,” Brady said. “I made progress — got some treatment last night, some this morning. We got the game plan last night. You look through the plays — I'm pretty comfortable I can do it all.

        “You've got to go out and test it out. You've got to tape it up, put the ankle brace on and run around.”

        At Rams practice, quarterback Kurt Warner took all of the snaps in 11-on-11 work and appeared to cope well with his list of nagging injuries.

        He has bruised vocal cords, a stomach virus, back spasms and bruised ribs — all of which began during the regular-season finale at Atlanta.

        “He's past it all. He's fine,” St.Louis coach Mike Martz said of Warner.

        Warner and Brady were the starting quarterbacks in the Week10 meeting between the teams, Nov.18 at Foxboro Stadium. The Rams won 24-17.

        Warner threw for 401 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Brady had 185 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

        “We've already prepared one week for them,” Brady said. “We've had a game against them. We've seen the tape. Their style doesn't change.”

        During the regular season, Brady earned a Pro Bowl berth by throwing for 2,843 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.


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