By: Bob George/BosSports.net
June 02, 2009

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Don't laugh. He's John Lennon. He's Buddy Holly. Even worse, he's Elvis.

Tom Brady has achieved a level of celebrity that few, if any, other Boston area sports celebs have ever reached. You can say what you want about Bobby Orr and his hockey legacy, Ted Williams and what people say about him when he walks down the street, and Bill Russell and all his championships (none of which he needs to give to Kevin Garnett). But none of them had any aura like the one Brady has.

None of them married a world class model. None of them would be considered an "it" guy from people like Army Archerd, Rona Barrett or the late Hedda Hopper. None of them walked around the streets of Boston or New York and feared being treated like the late Princess Diana.

People like Mike Reiss, Karen Guregian, Shalise Manza-Young or Chris Price may never score an exclusive interview with Brady these days. But Sports Illustrated's Peter King can. Soon, maybe only Brian Williams, Charles Gibson or Katie Couric will be able to touch this guy.

Brady did actually hold court with a bunch of area reporters a few days back, but it wasn't anything like the old days. Brady isn't what he used to be, the old, lovable Joe Everykid whose favorite Super Bowl is "the next one". Instead, Brady is now A-list, world class, GQ, rock star, too good for a Boston sports Mount Rushmore, that sort of guy. His left knee is the naturally the main concern, but the second biggest concern is if Gisele is pregnant, and the third is where their next vacation/paparazzi hangout will be.

In the past, OTAs (organized team activities) were nondescript events which got scant coverage. Usually when these events are over, the entire Patriot organization, even Bill Belichick, shuts Gillette Stadium down and heads for vacation. Belichick, for example, usually heads for Nantucket with far less a paparazzi trail than what will shadow the Bradys as they head for Cabo San Lucas, Rio de Janeiro, the south of France or the Cayman Islands. But for now, everyone in this area is slobbering over Brady, and thanks to the new edicts handed down by the NFL on media access to these events, these OTAs are front and center in everyone's conscious.

Brady can vacation at Nantasket Beach, for all we care. Other than his knee, there are more other pressing problems than whether or not Gisele is preggers. Like, for example, why isn't Vince Wilfork anywhere to be found? Or, how much is Fred Taylor pressing Laurence Maroney for playing time? Or better still, is the Patriot secondary any better at stopping the pass than they were last year?

Thankfully, the media did take some time away from whether or not Brady will build a mansion in greater San Francisco and give it an iconic name. Mention was made over a session Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and others had a few weeks back. The session had something to do with timing throws. Brady screamed at Moss for outsmarting him, and Moss seemed to like it. Now that's something to be excited about.

What may trouble Patriot Nation about Brady isn't so much the condition of his knee but rather the probability that Brady has not yet fully recovered from the cataclysmic 17-14 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, ruining what would have been a perfect 19-0 season. Brady seemed to go into seclusion, did not earn the coveted parking space for having worked out the hardest in the offseason, and spent most of the time canoodling around the world with Gisele and trying to find quality time with his son John (with Longmeadow actress Bridget Moynahan). His 2008 season ended quickly, but Brady was never to be seen again in 2008, not even on the sideline offering Matt Cassel any visible support.

Brady does seem more re-energized and ready to make amends for the horrific end of the 2007 season, which really wasn't his fault at all. Those who have seen him up close remarked on how bigger and stronger he looks. There have been no reports from the field that he no longer can hit receivers like he always has been able to, and while his left knee looks fine so far, he really cannot gauge the success of his rehab until actual game situations come into play. But overall, so far, so good.

This "rock star" blather is just that. It's merely that all you hear about Brady these days is from the gossip columnists and less from the football scribes. What used to be so endearing about Brady, the clean-cut All-American Boy persona, is somewhat different in the present tense. His having the baby out of wedlock and his being photographed every time he steps out of his apartment to merely walk the street is a far cry from what Brady used to be perceived to be off the field. Of course, everyone in the northeast would love Brady to be married with four kids like John Elway or Joe Montana, but in the end all that really matters is that someday Brady matches and exceeds Montana in numbers of Super Bowls won, and maybe Super Bowl MVPs won.

But because Brady has become what he has become, the OTAs have turned into a media circus of gigantic proportions. Hopefully everyone will do their job and tell everyone that the Patriots really should be Super Bowl favorites in Vegas based upon what they saw on the practice fields in Foxborough.

And don't stop there. Instead of speculating on Gisele's new photo shoot, let's see if the Patriots dare slap the franchise tag on Wilfork. Let's see if the new linebackers brought in will help offset the loss of Mike Vrabel. Let's see if Kevin O'Connell is ready to lead the Patriots if Kevin Faulk again goes to a rap concert and winds up suspended for any games in 2009, forcing Sammy Morris to have to pick up blitzing defensive backs.

Brady deserves the attention he gets, but only because he is the centerpiece of this franchise and means more to this team than any other player on the team. Matt Cassel's ability to win 11 games last season won him a well-deserved starting job in Kansas City, but what might the Patriots have done with Brady at the helm instead of Cassel? The Red Sox are still around the top of the AL East despite the slumping David Ortiz. The Celtics did come within one game of the East Finals without Kevin Garnett. But the Patriots need Brady to be healthy in 2009, especially in a division with Bill Parcells in charge of the resurgence of the Dolphins, the Jets still a problem despite being in huge transition, and now the prospect of having to deal with Terrell Owens as a Buffalo Bill.

But let's please go easy on this National Enquirer treatment of Brady. Sometime this summer, this writer will find his way to Morro Bay, California. Should we manage to bump into Tom and Gisele while relaxing on one of the finest (and underrated) beach areas of California, we'll just walk on by and let them be.

Unless I'm wearing a Michigan shirt and he yells "Go Blue!" I will then have to return the compliment. Protocol is protocol, folks.


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