Belichick glad to keep Brady as QB

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FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP) - Tom Brady walked into the New England Patriots locker room, his hair fashionably combed over his forehead in a Justin Bieber style as a pair of jeans, pre-ripped and faded, hung neatly over the back of his chair.

Even when it looks messy, everything is in place for the Patriots and their biggest star.

The two-time Super Bowl MVP was back at practice Friday, a day after he followed an early morning car accident with a four-year contract extension that will make him the highest-paid player in the NFL. When it begins in 2011, the deal will pay him an average of $18 million per season with a guarantee of $48.5 million.

“Nobody deserves it more, and I’m happy for him,” receiver Wes Welker said Friday. “I’m happy he’s here, and I hope he’s here for a long time.”

Brady’s contract extension, which had been in the works for months, was first reported by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King during halftime of NBC’s telecast of the Minnesota-New Orleans game. Brady, who will make $6.5 million this season in the final year of a six-year deal, declined to talk to reporters who approached him during Friday’s media availability.

Brady has not commented publicly since the two-car collision near his Back Bay home in which the other driver was cited for failure to stop at a red light.

A 49-year-old passenger of the other car had to be freed with the Jaws of Life and was taken to a hospital. Brady was examined by emergency personnel at the scene, but he arrived at Gillette Stadium in time for a 10:45 a.m. walkthrough and afternoon practice in preparation for Sunday’s opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

And most of the Patriots didn’t want to talk about anything else.

“I’m really happy for Tom,” offensive lineman Stephen Neal said, “but I’m concentrating on the Bengals right now.”

Asked Friday morning if there were any deals to report, coach Bill Belichick seemed at a loss. Reminded that Brady’s deal was done, Belichick said, “Oh, yeah. I was thinking about player transactions.”

“Look, there’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady,” Belichick said. “He does a great job for us in all phases of the game. I think right now, Tom, myself and all the rest of us are trying to get ready for Cincinnati.”

A sixth-round draft choice from Michigan in 2000, Brady inherited the starting job when Drew Bledsoe was injured in Week 3 of the 2001 season and led the Patriots to the first of their three Super Bowls in four years. After being named the NFL Most Valuable Player in 2007, when he threw for 4,806 yards and a record 50 touchdowns, Brady missed almost all of the ‘08 season after injuring his left knee in the opener.

He played through finger and rib injuries last year, but threw for 4,398 yards and 28 touchdowns _ both second only to his record-setting ‘07 season in which the Patriots were 18-0 before losing the Super Bowl 17-14 to the New York Giants on a last-minute touchdown.

Also Friday, Brady was elected captain along with running back Kevin Faulk, nose tackle Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo. Welker said Brady’s contract doesn’t change his role with the team: a leader on the field, and the supermodel’s husband who picks up the check at dinner off it.

“He’s still the same Tom for us,” said Welker, who spent the offseason recovering from reconstructive surgery on his left knee. “We’re still going to razz him and give him a hard time. “I think he enjoys getting razzed and things like that. He’s got some people who bring him back down to earth because his life is so extraordinary at times.”

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