All eyes on Tom Terrific

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:04 PM ET

FOXBORO, Mass. -- In the past year, Tom Brady, the NFL's resident pretty boy, married supermodel Gisele Bundchen, made a guest appearance on the hit TV show Entourage and deflected reports that he is going to be a father for a second time.

My, my, Tom Terrific certainly has been busy since he crumpled to the Gillette Stadium turf during the 2008 opener against Kansas City, his left knee having been shredded when hit by Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard.

Now, exactly 53 weeks after suffering the devastating ACL and MCL damage that sidelined him for the entire campaign, Brady will line up behind centre in a regular season game for the first time since that injury when his New England Patriots host the Buffalo Bills in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football tomorrow.

And he's intent on showing the skeptics that, yes, he can return to the form that led the Pats to a perfect 16-0 record back in 2007.

"We're on a mission this year," proclaimed Brady, the owner of three Super Bowl rings.

"For me, I think it's not about being the guy that holds this team back," he said. "I want to be the guy that's leading this team. We've got a lot of great players, and I want to be able to lead those guys."

If there were any lingering questions about Brady's durability, they were answered in the Pats' third pre-season tilt when he was knocked out of the game by a crushing blow from Washington's beefy Albert Haynesworth, sending waves of pain knifing through his shoulder.

Responding to subsequent criticism of the hit, Haynesworth said "it wasn't like I was hitting Gisele or something. He's the quarterback."

This much is certain: Brady, who is much tougher than his Hollywood looks might suggest, was not one of those who were whining about Haynesworth in New England.

Week 1 of the 2009 season brings many intriguing storylines, including Brett Favre as a Viking and Jay Cutler as a Bear, but none tops the return of Brady, who has not lost a regular season game since 2006.

The name game

In order to entice Favre to the Jets last year, then-New York coach Eric Mangini promised to give his third son the middle name of "Brett."

"(Favre) held me to it," Mangini said. "Zach was born on Brett's birthday. Stranger than fiction."

The two men make their respective debuts for their new teams against each other today when Favre's Vikings lock horns with Mangini's Browns.

Black Hole blues

Claiming he was blindsided by the deal that sent him to Oakland, former Pat Richard Seymour plans to make his Raiders debut against the San Diego Chargers tomorrow.

Seymour was reluctant to leave his family behind and did not immediate report. But the alternative -- being suspended for the entire season had he not joined the Raiders in the coming days -- was far worse.

Quick kicks

There is talk the NFL will institute a new salary system for rookies by 2011, one in which there will be a salary ceiling for each slot in the first round. The move is long overdue. When Detroit Lions rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford is making more money than many proven veterans, it's ridiculous ... Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel (sprained left knee) will be a game-time decision against the Baltimore Ravens ... Arizona Cardinals wideout Anquan Boldin (hamstring) is questionable to face the San Francisco 49ers.

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Second-year QB Matt Ryan must feel like a kid in a candy store with the addition of Gonzalez, arguably the top TE in league history. Gonzalez will be a real red-zone presence adding to an already-productive offence.


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