FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - Tom Brady went from the disappointment
of a Super Bowl loss to the devastation of an injury that could
keep him out for the rest of the season.
After missing the entire preseason with an unspecified foot
injury, Brady left Sunday's season opener against the Kansas City
Chiefs in the first quarter after being hit on the left leg by
Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard. Coach Bill Belichick provided no
information on the injury, but Pollard had a diagnosis of his own.
"He was in a lot of pain," he said. "When you hear a scream,
you know that."
Various reports Sunday night said Belichick told the players
that the injury was serious. The Patriots were already looking for
a possible replacement for Brady. A person familiar with the
situation told The Associated Press that former Tampa Bay
quarterback Chris Simms was coming in Monday for a physical.
Brady was the NFL MVP last season after throwing for a record 50
touchdowns and leading the Patriots through a perfect regular
season to the brink of their fourth Super Bowl title in eight
years. But New England lost its chance at an unprecedented 19-0
record when the Giants won the championship, 17-14.
Any chance at redemption might have disappeared when Brady, who
has started 128 consecutive games, went to the turf clutching his
left knee midway through the first quarter. After being tended to
on the field, he walked off, limping, between two trainers.
Brady, 31, went to the locker room and wasn't seen again on the
sideline as backup Matt Cassel led the Patriots to a 17-10 victory.
The two-time Super Bowl MVP was not available for comment after the
game, and Belichick said he had nothing to add to the in-game
announcement that it was a knee injury.
"They're looking at him, doing some tests on him, so I don't
have any information there," the coach said, cracking a smile as
he added, "doubt anybody's interested."
The Chiefs also lost their starting quarterback when Brodie
Croyle was sacked in the third quarter. The team said he had a
bruised right shoulder and he was replaced by Damon Huard.
Brady was 7-for-11 for 76 yards, completing a 28-yard pass to
Randy Moss on the play in which he was injured. Moss fumbled the
ball away when he was tackled; the Patriots forced Kansas City to
punt, then Cassel came in for New England.
"Since I've been here and been around Tom, he's always popped
back up," Cassel said. "I didn't know (how serious it was). I
just buckled my chinstrap and the guys rallied around me. I felt
Cassel took over at his 2 yard-line and, after two handoffs
nearly netted the Chiefs a safety, completed his first pass to Moss
for a 51-yard gain. Cassel, Brady's backup for the past three
years, finished the 98-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to
Moss that gave New England a 7-0 lead.
"This is something I've been preparing for for a long time,"
said Cassel, who threw just 33 passes while backing up Heisman
Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at Southern Cal.
"It's not something I expected to come up on opening day."
A former fourth-stringer who was the 199th overall selection in
the 2000 draft, Brady himself took over at quarterback when
longtime starter Drew Bledsoe sustained a life-threatening chest
injury in a 2001 game against the New York Jets. Brady led the
Patriots to their first NFL title that year, another in 2003 and
another in 2004.
In the process, Brady has become one of the league's biggest
stars and a crossover cover boy who has met the Pope and the
president, dated actresses and supermodels and rewrote one of the
NFL's most coveted records.
Last year, while leading New England to a 16-0 regular season,
Brady set a record with 50 touchdown passes and improved his
overall record as a starter to 100-27 - the best in the Super Bowl
era. The Patriots blew a chance at an unprecedented 19-0 season and
a fourth NFL title with a 17-14 loss in February's Super Bowl to
the New York Giants.
Brady did not play in four exhibition games this summer - all of
them Patriots losses - while trying to recover from a right foot
"He's the face of the New England Patriots, and Tom being who
he is it kind of hurts, to be honest with you," said Moss, who
caught 23 of Brady's TD passes in 2007, also a record. "I know the
show must go on. Hopefully Matt Cassel is ready to step in. I know
the team is ready to embrace him and let him lead us."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)