By BARRY WILNER
AP Football Writer
PHOENIX -- Tom Brady was back where he belongs Monday, behind center for the New England Patriots' first practice session of Super Bowl week.
The NFL's Most Valuable Player missed three practices last week with a tender right ankle, which was taped for Monday's training at Arizona State in nearby Tempe. According to the Chicago Tribune's Dan Pompei, the designated pool reporter, the star quarterback appeared to have a slight limp but participated in all phases of practice, including jogging the length of the field twice at the end of drills.
Coach Bill Belichick, as usual, declined to comment on injuries or elaborate on Brady's presence.
"Everybody practiced," Belichick said. "The injury report will be out Wednesday."
Brady's return from an injury sustained in the AFC championship game against San Diego was a welcome sight to receiver Wes Welker.
"Anytime the MVP of the league is back, it has to be a positive," Welker said. "He looks good -- the same dimples and all."
Brady talked about the ankle for the first time Sunday, shortly after arriving, and said it wouldn't be a problem for the game.
"I'm not concerned about how it's going to affect my play," he said. "This won't keep me out."
Nor do his teammates seem concerned.
"I don't worry about Tom," tackle Matt Light said. "He can take care of himself. I have a bunch of guys in front of me from the Giants to worry about."
Brady's health became an issue a week ago when he was spotted wearing a protective boot on his right foot while visiting supermodel girlfriend Gisele Bundchen in New York. He sat out all three practices in Foxborough, Mass., when much of the game plan was being installed.
Fans have to wonder whether the ankle will slow down the record-setting passer against the New York Giants in Sunday's NFL title game, when New England tries to become the first league team to go 19-0.
"This won't keep me out of this game," he said Sunday, comparing the injury to a similar problem before the 2002 Super Bowl, in which he was the MVP. "That ankle didn't keep me out of the last game. It would have to take a hell of a lot more than an ankle."
Before the Patriots headed to Arizona, Brady appeared at a departure rally at Gillette Stadium and walked without slipping on a light dusting of snow on the field.
He also didn't limp when he arrived at Sky Harbor Airport and, later, at the news conference.
Monday's 1 hour, 40-minute workout was conducted in shorts and shells rather than full pads. The footing was good despite the recent rain.
"We just wanted to get a good, crisp practice and work on our timing," Belichick said. "We had a lot of contact last week."
Indeed. It was a week during which Brady's health overshadowed the Patriots moving in on the first perfect NFL season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Yes, the three-time champion quarterback's persona has transcended even the Super Bowl.
"I feel energized down here to come into the hotel and to kind of start the process," Brady said Sunday night. "It is going to be a very fast week. I am not concerned about how it is going to affect my playing, and I can't run anyway, so it is not going to have much of an impact."