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For one morning last week the field house next to Gillette Stadium was Tom Brady's personal playground. Joining the 31-year-old quarterback were the four receivers he hopes will be on the field with him for the Patriots' first series of the 2009 season, on Sept. 14 against the Bills. Brady split Randy Moss and Joey Galloway outside the numbers and lined up Wes Welker and Greg Lewis in the slots, then they jogged through some of the new pass plays that New England will be installing in training camp. It had been 32 weeks since Brady's left knee was surgically reconstructed, and he moved straight ahead, laterally and backward with no pain. No one brought up the injury. Brady didn't stop to think, Hey, my knee feels great. They just worked through the routes, and Brady wondered, When we run this play against Buffalo, how will the defense respond?
"Come on!" Moss said before Brady called the last of the 25 or so plays they ran. "Make this a hard one!"
Moss likes to be challenged, and he's one of the best in the game at reading his quarterback's subtle signals. Moss showed that in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII when, after seeing a simple nod from Brady, he adjusted his route, cut inside the cornerback and caught a six-yard touchdown pass to put the Patriots up 14--10 over the Giants. This time Brady called one of the new plays with a hand signal; to further test Moss, he quick-snapped and backpedaled, seeing if his receivers would figure out what to do.
Moss guessed wrong, walking off the line of scrimmage confused. "What are you doing?" Brady yelled.
"I don't know," Moss said. "What [play] is it?"
Brady called out the name, then said, triumphantly, "I'm going home! I got Moss today! I got you!"
Even Moss had to laugh.
This week, when New England starts full-roster organized training activities (OTAs), Brady will step into the huddle with the entire offense for the first time since he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in the 2008 season opener. (Last week's sessions were for rookies, free agents and select veterans returning from injury, with Brady and his top receivers working in seclusion.) The quarterback acts and sounds as if he wished the Buffalo game were tomorrow. In his first extended interview since he got hurt, Brady told SI that his recovery is on schedule, he's running and cutting without pain or restricted movement, and he has no ill effects from two follow-up procedures to flush out a postop staph infection in the knee. In fact, calling the last eight months "the halftime of my career," Brady said, "I want to play another 10 years."
He was convincing when he said he was "as confident as anyone could be that I'll be ready to play, back to playing normally, when the seasons starts. I've done everything I could to push myself, sometimes too hard. Right now, I'm doing everything. Literally everything. There's nothing I can't do."
With his voice rising as he leaned forward in his chair, Brady said that playing 10 more seasons "is a big goal of mine, a very big goal. I want to play until I'm 41. And if I get to that point and still feel good, I'll keep playing. I mean, what the hell else am I going to do? I don't like anything else.