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Brady back in the spotlight with crash and cash

By Steve Keating

DETROIT (Reuters) - Even when you are a Pro Bowl quarterback like New England Patriot Tom Brady with three Super Bowl rings, two Super Bowl most valuable player awards and a supermodel wife you can sometimes go unnoticed.

One sure way to attract attention is to be involved in a car crash and, later the same day, sign a four-year, $72-million contract -- the richest ever for an NFL quarterback.

For much of the pre-season Brady had seemed like the NFL's forgotten man as the spotlight concentrated on other members of the NFL quarterbacking fraternity.

It shone on Brett Favre as he wavered over whether to return to the Minnesota Vikings, and on Aaron Rodgers as his star rose with the Green Bay Packers.

It lit up the debate about what New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees could do for a Super Bowl encore and worries about New York Jet Mark Sanchez's suffering a second-year jinx.

Anticipation about the Manning Bowl took its turn in the spotlight, with Eli Manning leading the New York Giants to Indianapolis where they lost to big brother Peyton's Colts, as did speculation over whether Tony Romo could lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl that will be played in their home stadium.

Yes, there was no shortage of quarterback storylines in the buildup to the season but few of them featured Brady until early last Thursday when his car collided with a van on his way to practice and he later signed a deal that made him the Cadillac of quarterbacks, at least until Peyton Manning signs his new deal.

BEST RECORD

"I don't assume anything any more in life," Brady, who was not hurt in the crash, told reporters. "I don't think anything's really guaranteed to us beyond what we have today.

"I love being here, I really do. I love playing for this organization.

"It's the only organization I've ever known...It's a great place. If you like winning games, it's a great place."

Winning is something Patriots fans have come to expect since Brady took over as starting quarterback for an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001 and began building a Hall of Fame career.

He has amassed a record of 112-35 in regular-season and playoff games, the best of any quarterback in the Super Bowl era. His 14-4 playoff record is second only to Green Bay Packers great Bart Starr.

Brady has played in four Super Bowls in the last decade, winning three, and helped to lead the Patriots to a perfect 16-0 regular season in 2007.

Taken in the sixth round of the 2000 draft as an afterthought by the Patriots, Brady has enjoyed a rags-to-riches NFL career, packed with achievements and painful setbacks.

Brady began his professional career as New England's fourth-string quarterback holding a clipboard on the sidelines but is likely to end it in Canton, Ohio, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of the greatest ever to play in the position.

PRIVATE LIFE

With his leading-man good looks, Brady is used to the tabloid media prying into his private life.

He dated actress Bridget Moynahan and they had a child together, then last year he married Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who according to Forbes magazine is the highest-paid model in the world.

It was a match made in tabloid heaven with Brady, a Sports Illustrated cover boy, and Bundchen, who has appeared on more than 500 magazine covers, having a son together.

Knocked out in the first quarter of the Patriots' 2008 season opener, Brady underwent surgery and missed the entire year. Infections and complications forced him to undergo more surgery.

Brady returned last season and ended any lingering concern over the injury, throwing for more than 4,000 yards and making 28 touchdowns while leading the Patriots to a 10-6 record and back to the playoffs.

With his personal and professional lives in order, Brady briefly slipped from the media radar screens.

However the 33-year-old nudged his way back into the limelight in Week One, leading the Patriots to an impressive 38-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

"The celebration after the game is what it's all about," said Brady. "We have a lot of new faces in here and we've been working pretty hard for the entire off-season.

"All of the work we've put in, this is what it's all about."

(Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)