FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -Despite a record-setting 2007, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady sees the competition only getting tougher as he enters his ninth season.
Brady threw for an NFL-record 50 touchdown passes last season while leading the Patriots to a 16-0 regular season. He also completed 69 percent of his passes for 4,806 yards and won several honors, including the MVP award and first-team All-Pro.
Still, the 17-14 loss to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl was a sour finish after 18 straight wins in the regular season and playoffs.
At 31, Brady is still in his prime. Brady was reminded about his age when he was asked about rookie quarterback Kevin O'Connell having the duty of carrying his shoulder pads off the practice field, an NFL tradition.
``When I was his age, I was carrying three sets of pads,'' Brady said. ``He's getting off easy carrying one set of pads.''
It's hard to imagine the still boyish-looking Brady as a veteran.
``I'm glad I've been here going on my ninth year,'' Brady said. ``There's only four of us who have been here that long,'' he said, referring to himself and Kevin Faulk, Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel. ``I was one of those rookies one of those days, a new kid on the block. Now I'm the fourth oldest.''
Brady is expecting plenty of competition in the AFC East from two new quarterback acquisitions - Brett Favre, who was traded from the Green Bay Packers to the New York Jets, and Chad Pennington, who was released by the Jets after the Favre deal but has since signed a two-year deal with the Miami Dolphins.
``Any time you add a Brett Favre to your team, it never hurts,'' Brady said.
``He's a great player,'' said Brady about Pennington. ``He's going into this ninth year, too. He's been a starting quarterback for a long time. He's going to help the team.''
Brady also said he thinks the Patriots are already better prepared than it was for last season.
``We know what we can do. It's not about lining up in formation and running a play. Now it's about getting into a better play than the one we called in the huddle and running the one we like the best,'' he said.
Brady said ``from Day One, we've been way ahead of last year.''
Brady, who has never completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes in a season since he became the Patriots starter in 2001, has no doubts his offensive line will be fine, despite the continued absence of starter Stephen Neal.
Brady said he expects to play Sunday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., in the Patriots' second exhibition game, after sitting out the 16-15 loss to Baltimore a week ago.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said his team continues to work on everything.
``We are working on timing of plays that we are running, a lot of which we didn't run against Baltimore,'' he said. ``All those things were kind of on the hit parade, and we will continue to work on those things about 20 percent of the time and the other 80 percent will be geared towards things that Tampa Bay does.''
Notes: Patriots spokesman Stacey James would not confirm reports by The Denver Post and The Boston Globe that the team has worked out former Denver Broncos safety John Lynch. James said the team had not signed Lynch.

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