Brady in a class by himself among local legends

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Brady in a class by himself among local legends

By Rich Levine
Standing Room Only

We love to talk about Mount Rushmores in sports. But when it comes to Boston in this era of dominance, Mount Rushmore has only one face.

Thats no disrespect to the other legends of this past decade. Pedro did things weve never seen before (or will again). Papis had so many moments that well never forget. Thomas was invincible, Manny was Manny, Pierce was, and still is, so remarkably reliable. Garnett, Schilling and Pedroia. Vinatieri, Brown and Bruschi. Theyre all greats, and were forever indebted to each and every one. In 10 years, they took this insane asylum of a sports city and upgraded us to . . . I dont know? What the hell is this? I still feel like that drugged up kid coming home from the dentist:

Is this real life?!

But if were talking about Boston legends if were talking legendary none of the guys I just mentioned belong in the same sentence as Tom Brady. (In this case, not even the same paragraph.) When alls said and done, hes the only one well discuss among Williams, Russell, Orr and Bird.

Hes the only guaranteed statue.

Thirty years from now, youll take your son or grandson to Robert Kraft Stadium, presented by Gillette, make your way through the stores, museums and newly-opened theme park, and a bronze Tom Brady will greet you at the gates. Without a doubt. Can you say that for sure about any athlete from these last seven titles?

I guess Papis a possibility, depending on what happens this postseason (and offseason). Pedro was one of a kind, and I dont think anyone would argue with the honor, but is six years of service enough for a statue?

Bradys the only sure thing. Hes in a league of his own.

And for the most part, hes treated as such.

We like to joke about the off-the-field activities (mostly because theyre funny) and pretend to be embarrassed and offended by the quirkiergirlier aspects of his personality, but deep down no one really cares. To be honest, a picture could surface tomorrow of Brady rollerblading through Central Park wearing a pink t-shirt and spandex with a copy of Are you there, Vodka? Its me, Chelsea under his arm, and it wouldnt change a thing. At 31 years old (two and a half years younger than Brady), I can say that his career is (and will be) my most historically significant experience as a sports fan. Hes Larry Bird. Hes Bobby Orr. Hes Bill Russell and Ted Williams. And like I said, I think we all know that, and dont need to be reminded of how good we have it.

But sometimes were reminded, anyway.

When we think of Brady, we always think about the rings. Why? Because theyre all that matter. But also because as a result of the Patriots team philosophy, Bradys slow development as a big-number QB and the fact that his generational counterpart is perhaps the biggest statistical freak in football history Bradys career stats just never get that much attention.

But how about this:

Tom Bradys thrown 261 career touchdown passes which ties him (with Dave Krieg) for 10th on the all-time list.

If he throws 30 touchdowns this season (a very manageable number), hell pass Krieg along with Joe Montana (273), Vinny Testaverde (whaaat?) and Johnny Unitas (290) to move into a tie with Warren Moon (291) for sixth.

If Brady throws 40 touchdowns this season, not likely but certainly not out of the question, hell leapfrog John Elway (300) and claim sole possession of 5th on the NFLs all-time touchdown list.

Fifth.

And then theres this: The 10 quarterbacks with whom Brady shares the Top 10 in touchdowns have thrown an average of 233 career interceptions. Seven of the 10 have thrown more than 200 INTs. Krieg threw 199, Mannings thrown 198 and Montana threw 160.

Bradys thrown 102.

Just like that, his numbers have caught up to the rings.

Of course, thats also part of the problem. Or at least adds context to the only real question that still surrounds the most legendary figure in this era of legendary figures.

How many more rings will there be?

Its a little premature to call Brady old, but seeing that hes about to start his 12th season, and is on the doorstep of some seriously exclusive statistical company, hes undoubtedly getting older.

Hes five years older than Drew Bledsoe was when he took his last snap in New England. Hes old enough to have shared a locker room with Bruce Armstrong. When Brady won his first Super Bowl, he was 24. On that day, 24 was also the combined age of his two current tight ends.

But at the same time, you cant talk about Bradys increasing age without recognizing that it hasnt affected him in the slightest. In fact, hes never been better. He was never a quarterback who relied on speed and athleticism, so as he gets older and his body wears down, hell have less to lose. Then again, his body really hasnt shown signs of breaking down Im sure that has a lot to do with work ethic. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that while this will be his 12th season, Bradys really only taken (thanks to the first year apprenticeship and the eight minutes of 2008 action) nine seasons worth of pounding. But whatever the reason, I dont care Im just happy with the reality.

Bradys already established himself as the greatest athlete of this era, and just about every other. He could do absolutely nothing between now and the day he walks away (for the record, a day I fear more than my first kidney stone) and still own Bostons Mount Rushmore.

But somehow, at this point, no one including Brady will be satisfied with that. We want more. He wants more.

Most importantly, hes still capable of so much more.

Hell take his next step on Monday night.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Thursday's Patriots-Texans practice report: Gronk participates, Cannon does not

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Thursday's Patriots-Texans practice report: Gronk participates, Cannon does not

FOXBORO -- There was good news and bad news for the Patriots on Thursday's injury report.

The good? Rob Gronkowski ratcheted up his participation in practice from Wednesday to Thursday and was listed as a "limited" participant. On Wednesday, though he was spotted on the field and participating in some drills, he was listed as a non-participant. 

The bad? Marcus Cannon was on the field to start the session, but he was later listed as a non-participant as he deals with an ankle issue and a concussion.

Also on the not-so-good news front for Bill Belichick's club: Rex Burkhead (ribs) did not participate for the second-straight day, throwing his availability into doubt for Sunday; defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (knee) was also held out of practice. 

On the Texans' end of things, it's worth keeping an eye on the status of their corners Kevin Johnson and Jonathan Joseph. Johnson didn't participate due to a knee issue, and Joseph was limited with a shoulder injury. 

Thursday's practice participation/injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Texans game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
RB Rex Burkhead (ribs)
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle/concussion)
DT Vincent Valentine (knee)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
WR Danny Amendola (concussion/knee)
WR Phillip Dorsett (knee)
CB Stephon Gilmore (groin)
TE Rob Gronkowski (groin)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
WR Chris Hogan (knee)
LB Elandon Roberts (thumb)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)
WR Matthew Slater (hamstring)

HOUSTON TEXANS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
G Jeff Allen (ankle)
CB Kevin Johnson (knee)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
RB Alfred Blue (ankle)
NT Brandon Dunn (knee)
WR Will Fuller V (shoulder)
CB Jonathan Joseph (shoulder)
G Xavier Su'a-Filo (knee)
DE J.J. Watt (finger)

FULL PARTICIPATION
TE Stephen Anderson (concussion)
CB Marcus Burley (knee)
T Chris Clark (wrist)
WR Bruce Ellington (concussion)
TE Ryan Griffin (concussion)

Malcolm Butler: 'I haven't been performing at the level that I should be'

Malcolm Butler: 'I haven't been performing at the level that I should be'

FOXBORO -- When Malcolm Butler didn't start against the Saints on Sunday, it wasn't something he was told ahead of time. It did surprise some of his teammates, though, during that week's walkthrough when he wasn't working with the starters. 

On Thursday, instead of acting shellshocked, Butler sounded like a player who was set on earning a place back in the Patriots starting lineup.

TODAY'S PATRIOTS REPORT

"I haven't been performing at the level that I should be performing at," he said. "I gotta do whatever I gotta do to help the team. Whatever role that I get, I got a job to do so I gotta do it. Just gotta keep grinding, keep working hard."

Butler found himself working in behind Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe in New Orleans as the team's No. 3 corner. Asked if he was frustrated -- he's making $3.91 million this year and is scheduled to hit free agency after the season -- he acknowledged that those types of feelings have crept in at times. 

"I kind of thought about it like that, but I can't worry about anything but what's happening right now," Butler said. "Complaining or feeling sorry for myself is not going to make me perform better. I just gotta keep rolling. I'm gonna get it rolling. That's what I'm going to do."

In the last year of his deal, and with a highly-paid corner on the roster for the foreseeable future, Butler's name is a logical one to be tossed around as a candidate to be traded, but he said he tries not to pay attention to that speculation.

"As much as I can I try not to," he said. "This is where I play. This is where I'm happy at. I just gotta continue doing my thing."

Still without a long-term deal, Butler explained he has felt sorry for himself at times, but he's done what he can, he said, to push those thoughts aside. 

"We all had those feelings before, but we wake up and realize in reality that it's not going to help you," he said. "It's not going to help you. I just gotta go out there and play hard with a lot of fire and that's what I'm going to do. We'll see."

Butler allowed four catches on five targets for 40 yards and a touchdown against the Saints last weekend. In Week 1 he had a costly pass-interference penalty in the end zone that led to a Chiefs score.

While he has been disappointed in his play thus far this season, he sounded confident that he'd be able to work his way back into defensive coordinator Matt Patricia's group of starters. "I'm finding my way back, better believe that."

Butler added that he hasn't been told if he'll start this weekend against the Texans, but "I'm playing like it, though. I'm practicing like it. I'll be ready. It starts at practice."

"It's still early," he said. "Two games [and] preseason games, but there's no excuses. There's no excuses. I'll be ready to roll. Lights out."

Why so confident in the bounce-back?

"There've been times when I've been through a lot of stuff man," he said. "I made it through that and I made it to the National Football League. If I can handle that and make it to the NFL then I can put my mind together to make it past this situation. Just gotta perform better. It's still early, but need a sense of urgency and we'll see that."

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