By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- No one with half a clue would question Tom Brady's work ethic. Even if he's not playing, he's still working out. He's always working on something. But once he had to sit four games for a suspension, his first missed time since tearing his ACL in 2008, it was fair to wonder how the 39-year-old would look upon finally returning to the Patriots in Week 5.
Not that vacationing in Italy with Gisele would concern smart, rational fans, but those unfortunate photos were inevitably going to raise questions. Ask Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, however, and Brady is looking better than many may believe.
No, he's not talking about Brady's tan. He was asked about the quarterback's condition upon returning to the Patriots and said that No. 12 looks the same as he always has when reporting to the team.
"I didn't notice any difference," said McDaniels in his Tuesday conference call. "It was four weeks and it felt like it went fast and Tommy is ready to go and looks ready to go. Like I said, we'll see how everything goes tomorrow at practice and kind of just build one day at a time as we go through the week."
To me, these comments are a great sign for how Brady will play in his first game back from the suspension and first game action since Week 4 of the preseason on Sept. 1. McDaniels didn't have to say Brady "looks ready to go." He could have said something to the effect of, "Tom's had four weeks off so he has a lot of work to do and a lot of catching up to do." But he insisted Brady "looks ready to go," which certainly bodes well.
McDaniels did, however, acknowledge that the four weeks away from the team will have an effect on Brady and he will need to catch up, despite having so much experience working with McDaniels.
I think experience helps any player. If they're injured or what have you, they come back, or if they miss some time for whatever reason. But I also think there's an acclimation period in the game of football that's hard to simulate unless you're playing football. Like I said, we're going to do the best we can to prepare and take every opportunity in practice and take advantage of all the reps that we have in the periods that we can be out there working together to just make sure that Tom [Brady] is as capable on Sunday to do his job.
You really shouldn't be surprised if Brady has to work off some of the rust that has gathered in his time away from the Patriots. If any quarterback could take a month off and play exactly the same it's Brady, but to flat-out expect a 500-yard, five-touchdown scorched-earth performance right out of the gate is simply unrealistic, even against the Browns. This may shock you, but Brady is still a human being.
Exactly how much catching up Brady really has in his return is unknown, but for McDaniels to give a vote of confidence in Brady's condition when he didn't really have to is not surprising at all and is a good sign for the Brady you're going to see on Sunday.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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