FOXBORO, Mass. — For the New England Patriots, Friday marked the 10-year anniversary of one of the worst days of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era.

That was the day Kansas City Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard toppled Brady with a low hit to his left knee, tearing the quarterback’s ACL and forcing him to spend nearly the entire 2008 season on the sideline.

With backup Matt Cassel at the helm, the 2008 Patriots still managed to win 11 games, but they missed the playoffs — their only postseason absence in the last 15 years.

“That was kind of a big injury, the first real significant one in my life,” Brady said Friday. “It was a tough contact injury, and I had the surgery and then had a staph infection after that. And then it’s just a long rehab process. Those injuries are tough, and I think it requires a lot of mental toughness. And if you haven’t been through them, I think you gain a new appreciation for being back out on the field with your teammates.”

The 15 games Brady missed as his knee healed were the only ones he’s sat out due to injury in his entire 18-year NFL career. The only other DNPs on his record came during his four-game Deflategate suspension in 2016.

“That was a particularly tough one, because I actually didn’t wear a knee brace back then,” Brady said. “A lot of the other quarterbacks were, and you don’t think those injuries can happen to you. Just as I was striding, my foot planted, and the helmet hit my knee, and since then I’ve worn a knee brace, tried to protect my left leg. But yeah, that was a long time ago, and I feel pretty confident in there now. You’re just trying to avoid those the best way you can.”

Brady, who turned 41 last month, will begin his 19th NFL season this Sunday when the Patriots host the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “I’m really excited. It’s a blessing to be able to do it and I love playing football. I love the sport. I’ve been doing it for a long time, so I’m not sure what life would be like without it. I’ve had a few experiences where I haven’t been out there and I haven’t liked those very much. Hopefully, we can go out and start the season well.”

Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images