For Tom Brady, it was, and the quarterback did not disappoint.
Brady was voted the AP Comeback Player of the Year, receiving 19 votes from a panel of 50 sportswriters around the country. He beat out Carnell Williams of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who received 14 votes.
Brady, who played just over seven minutes last season, turned in one of the best seasons of his career, yet he did so with relatively little fanfare. That’s partly due to the 50-touchdown season he completed in 2007, which was the best in NFL history.
This season, despite battling shoulder, rib and finger injuries, Brady posted his second-highest career stats in completion percentage (65.7), yards (4,398) and touchdowns (28).
Despite the success, Brady showed plenty of rust. That, combined with ribs that have been reportedly cracked all season, resulted in some uncharacteristic mistakes. He threw an interception in the end zone in Miami in a game that the Dolphins ultimately won by a point, and he threw a pick that essentially sealed a Texans victory in Week 17.
However, despite the bad, there was more than enough good. For starters, he led the Patriots to a 10-6 record and a trip to the postseason — something last year’s 11-5 squad couldn’t do. He also set the NFL record for most touchdown passes in a quarter when he threw five in the second quarter against the Titans. In that game, he threw for 380 yards and six touchdowns. He also had a career day at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16, when he threw more touchdowns than incompletions. He finished that game 23-of-26 (88 percent) for 267 yards and four touchdowns.
Brady spoke this fall about how the season-ending injury in 2008, while incredibly disappointing, was good for him in that it helped him appreciate the opportunity he has to play the game.
“It’s a very physical sport, football is,” Brady said, according to the AP. “I had an unfortunate injury, but I think it’s really helped me grow in a lot of ways as a person, as a player, as a teammate. It really reinforces how much I enjoy playing the game and how much I love the game. And to have the chance to go out this year and play, it’s great.”
Williams played just 10 games combined in the previous two seasons, suffering from torn patellar tendons in each of his knees. This year, he played in all 16 games, compiling 821 yards (3.9 YPC) and four touchdowns on the ground while catching 29 passes for 219 yards and another three touchdowns.
Other players who received votes included Titans quarterback Vince Young, Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, Bengals running back Cedric Benson, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer and Saints defensive end Anthony Hargrove.
It was hard to compete with Brady, though, as the 32-year-old is one of the biggest stars in the league. On Sunday, he’ll take to the field hoping to begin a run that will end with bringing the Patriots back to the game’s biggest stage.
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