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 PHOENIX (AP) -The video was grainy, adding to the intrigue and mystery of it all, even if it was just Tom Brady carrying some flowers for his main squeeze and wearing a protective boot on his right foot.
Bookies in Las Vegas studied it. So did the celebrity gossip sites, though for reasons far removed from whether the Super Bowl point spread would narrow.
So did the brain trust that runs the New York Giants.
Could that be a real boot? Was Brady actually hobbling?
Were those carnations or pink roses?
Deep questions all, but those asking them did so with little hope of ever finding out just what was happening last week on a narrow residential street in Greenwich Village, where the worlds of celebrity and athletics collided with a force not seen since, well, a week earlier in Texas when another quarterback's affection for a certain blonde was the talk of the town.
So it was more than a little surprising that the mystery was solved even before the New England Patriots checked into their team hotel upon their arrival in this desert city Sunday night. Even more surprising in the paranoid and secretive world of the world's best football team was that Brady himself provided the main clues.
Or did he?
Brady's announcement that he did indeed hurt his right ankle sometime in the third quarter of the AFC championship game and didn't practice last week would have been treated as routine - though major - news if it had been delivered by any other quarterback of any other team during any other Super Bowl week.
But these are the Patriots, who usually guard such matters even more closely than Brady guards his image. This is a quarterback who rarely strays from a party line that Bill Belichick puts up early and expects every player to abide by.
And this was what Belichick had to say before his star player got loose with his lips:
``We'll update our injury report on Wednesday when we are required to do it by the league.''
Why would a team that plays coy when it comes to a hangnail on a third string linebacker allow its quarterback to open up about his injury a week before the biggest Super Bowl game the Patriots will ever play?
That, of course, is the $500,000 question that likely perplexes Giants coach Tom Coughlin just as much as it does the hundreds of media members gathered here to chronicle the insights of Brady and Belichick as the Patriots chase history in the Super Bowl. As if Coughlin didn't have enough to worry about, he'll now be forced to spend the rest of the week fretting about why Brady suddenly decided to come clean.
With any other team, or any other coach, the answer would have simply been that the video was clear enough so that some explanation was in order.
With the Patriots, though, it's never that simple. Everything they do is suspect, from the way they steal castoffs from other teams to the way they swipe defensive signals from their competitors.
There's nothing to say flowers and walking boots aren't, too.
This might have been some kind of devious plot dreamed up by Belichick, in the two hours a night he actually does sleep, to change the whole tenor of Super Bowl week. Imagine him huddled under his hoodie with wild thoughts of supermodel girlfriends, gimpy ankles and a chatty quarterback filling his head until it all came together in one grand scheme.
Suddenly, instead of a week filled with questions about the pressure the Patriots face in trying to win the Super Bowl and make history by being perfect, the questions will be whether Brady can scramble if necessary. Talk about Spygate and cheating will be replaced by talk about ankle taping and pushing off.
And no one will bother to ask Randy Moss a question about an alleged beating of a non-football kind in Florida.
Crazy? Maybe. But is there anything crazier than a coach being fined a half million dollars for stealing signals early in the year getting his best revenge by running the table on the NFL?
Belichick didn't become a coaching genius by leaving anything to chance, and he's not about to do so in the biggest week of his career. Like most great coaches, he's a control freak who has his hand into the most minute details of his players and team.
He may not have said anything himself, but there's no way Brady would have opened his mouth after a long flight across the country had the coach not given the OK.
Heck, for all we know, Belichick supplied the walking boot and bought the flowers.
About the only thing we don't know is what kind of flowers they were.
----
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org

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