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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Once you clear away smoke, it's obvious Brady isn't going anywhere

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Two things need to be cleared up as they relate to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

One is this: His skills aren't eroding, as some would lead us to believe.

Contrary to a few opinions out there, Tom Brady's skills aren't eroding. (US Presswire)  
Contrary to a few opinions out there, Tom Brady's skills aren't eroding. (US Presswire)  
The second goes hand-and-hand with the first: He isn't going anywhere.

There was a column earlier this month by respected football writer Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports regarding Brady's relationship with the Patriots. The column inferred that there was a growing distance, especially considering Brady is entering the final year of his contract.

Silver has a good relationship with Brady, so I'm sure this came right from the horse's mouth.

But the Patriots would have to be the other end of the horse -- you know, the ass -- to even consider not bringing Brady back.

Fret not, Patriots fans. It's not time for coach Bill Belichick to pull a Drew Bledsoe on Brady.

Why would he?

"That's one of the dumbest things I've heard in a long time," one AFC general manager said. "They would let Tom Brady walk? Yeah, right."

Brady signed a six-year contract in 2005. At the time, the talk was Brady took less money to be loyal to the Patriots. That was dumb then, and it's even dumber now. You take what you can get when you can. Loyalty doesn't get rewarded, no matter what a player may think.

You can bet there will be no discount this time around.

But things have changed since the last deal. Brady is older. He turns 33 in August. He's also two years removed from major knee surgery that knocked him out of almost all of the 2008 season.

He's also a father. Twice.

And that's where the supposed disconnect comes from. Before he had children and married model Gisele Bundchen, Brady was always heavily involved in the offseason workouts. Each year, the team awarded a prime parking spot to the player who had the best attendance for workouts in the offseason. Brady almost always had it.

The past couple of seasons, that hasn't been the case. He hasn't been around that much. Sparring with the paparazzi on wedding days and being part of the jet-set crowd has taken some of his time. But so has Brady trying to be a good father.

Isn't that more important than some workout in New England? Brady's oldest son, with actress Bridget Moynahan, lives in Los Angeles. That's where the acting work is, so that's where Moynihan lives. The baby does too.

To be close to his oldest son -- he also has a son with Bundchen -- Brady is making his offseason home in Los Angeles.

Why should anybody quibble with that? At a time when more single dads should be involved in their kid's lives, you would think Brady would be commended.

Then again, that has to be foreign thinking to a man like Belichick, who thinks football 24 hours a day and probably thinks getting away means leaving the facility for a couple of hours for lunch.

Work, work, and more work.

It doesn't help the cause that some see Brady as an eroding quarterback and the Patriots as a declining team.

I just don't buy either of those.

The New York Jets are the supposed new darlings of the AFC East and the Miami Dolphins are said to be up there as well. But you tell me: Brady or Mark Sanchez or Chad Henne?

Sanchez and Henne will be really good players down the road. Brady is already that -- and more. That's an easy choice.

This is a quarterback league. That's why Brady and the Patriots, despite the trendy pick by most of the Jets, remain the top team in the AFC East.

Brady remains a star passer. Just look at what he did last season, one year removed from the major knee injury. The perception is he wasn't as good. The numbers say that's a lie.

Brady threw for 4,398 yards, 28 touchdown passes and had a completion percentage of 65.7. The yardage total was the second-best of his career. The touchdown passes tied for second best. The completion percentage was the second highest of his career.

The only season he had that was better came in 2007, that magical season in which he led the Patriots to a 16-0 regular-season record. Brady had arguably the greatest passing season ever in 2007, throwing for 4,806 yards and 50 touchdown passes, a league record.

To think he could duplicate that, even healthy, would be insane. But coming off a shredded knee to play the way he did in 2009 was an exceptional season. Yes, he has Randy Moss and Wes Welker. But he makes the Patriots go. He's why they have three Super Bowl rings during his time with the team.

He's the reason they are still a Super contender this season.

For me, it's always been Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Manning is No. 1, but it's close for that spot. It's really splitting hairs, even if the New England region hates me for picking Manning.

Now they're both readying for new contracts, deals that should make them the two highest-paid players in the NFL. Only they're doing so under completely different circumstances.

The Colts have indicated that Manning will get his deal in time. Manning is coming off an MVP season in which he led his team to the Super Bowl. So it's understandable.

What isn't easy to grasp is the idea that Brady's chance for a new contract is murkier than Manning's. This is a man still playing at a high level, even if there is a perception that he is not. I've heard from some players and coaches since the end of the season who wonder if Brady will be the same quarterback now that his commitment isn't what is used to be. They wonder if he's got the drive anymore.

I see a competitor, a guy who gives it all when he's got on the field and certainly does that when he's training to be in game shape. You think he's not working out in Los Angeles?

If Brady is a worry, the Patriots will be just fine. Disconnect? I'm not buying it.

That might be negotiation-speak is all. The Patriots aren't letting Brady go anywhere.

Owner Bob Kraft is a smart man, and no smart man in his right mind would let a franchise passer, arguably the best in the NFL, walk away.

The only disconnect here is between perception and reality when it comes to Tom Brady.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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