New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady warms up before an AFC divisional NFL playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Tom Brady was at the team facility Thursday morning.
Put anther way: Disaster averted. After overcoming ... well, just about everything the football gods have thrown at the Patriots, losing Tom Brady days before the AFC Championship matchup with the Broncos could have been what officially ended New England's remarkable run through the 2013 season.
On Wednesday, Brady missed his first practice of the season with an illness. In fact, he wasn't even at Gillette Stadium, a fact that caused panic throughout much of New England (not just the team, the region too) because while the Pats are a lot of things, they're nothing without Brady.
There was speculation that Brady had the flu, which could very well knock him out of commission for days plural. But a source told ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss that Brady was "good and will be ready for Sunday," news that should calm the nerves of Pats fans worried about facing Peyton Manning without their best player.
ESPNBoston.com also reports that Brady is expected to practice Thursday. In his absence Wednesday, Ryan Mallett took all the first-team reps. In case you're wondering, in his three-year career, Mallett has attempted a whopping four passes in regular-season games, completing one.
Manning, meanwhile, said Wednesday that "Coach Belichick is the best coach I’ve ever competed against, I think it’s safe to say he'll go down as the greatest NFL coach of all time."
And Manning added this about his counterpart, Brady: "I think the one thing that jumps out about Tom is his consistency," he said. "I feel he’s been a better player each year than he was the year before. That speaks to his work ethic in the offseason, his refusal to be complacent or satisfied. He always feels he can step his game up one level higher, which, after some of the seasons he's had you say, how can you do better than that? But he has done that."
Come Sunday afternoon, it's a virtual certainty that we'll see Brady vs. Manning again, and this time the winner is going to the Super Bowl.