FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady wasn’t willing to give a full medical explanation as to why he missed practice Wednesday, but after participating in Thursday’s workout — much to the relief of Patriots fans — the quarterback looked and sounded healthier than he had been the week before, and said he’d be ready for Sunday’s AFC Championship game against the Broncos.
“It was nothing. I feel great. Nothing at all,” said Brady, who half-jokingly directed reporters asking about his absence to Wednesday’s injury report, which listed “illness.”
“[It] was good to be out there with the guys and have a good day of practice.”
This will be Brady’s eighth appearance in an AFC title game; the Patriots were 5-2 in his first seven trips, losing to the Colts and Peyton Manning (now Denver’s quarterback) in 2007, and to the Ravens last year. A win would give Brady six conference championships, breaking the record he shares with John Elway (now Denver’s executive vice president of football operations).
“We need to go out and play good, that’s going to be the most important thing,” said Brady. “They’re going to challenge us in a lot of ways. They challenged us last time we played them here.
“Going on the road to a great environment like this where the crowd is really going to be into it, it’s going to be an exciting challenge for us. I’m excited.”
Siliga 4 for 4
Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga has played for four teams since breaking into the league in 2011: the 49ers, Seahawks, Broncos, and now the Patriots. That’s right, Siliga has drawn a paycheck from all four teams who are still in the playoffs.
“Every team has helped me out,” said Siliga. “They’ve helped me out especially with the way I play, because I have picked up a little something from every team I’ve played for. I’ve taken advantage over there and took a little part of what they play with and added it to my game.”
Siliga was an undrafted free agent who signed with the 49ers in July 2011, then joined the Broncos two months later, spending the 2011 season on the practice squad and appearing in one game the following season. Siliga was traded to the Seahawks in August, then joined the Patriots Oct. 23, three weeks after being released by the Seahawks.
He’s been a nice find for the Patriots. After being promoted to the 53-man roster on Nov. 27, Siliga played in the final five regular-season games (starting four), making 21 tackles and three sacks. He also started last week’s game against the Colts.
“It’s been an honor for them to put that much pressure on me,” Siliga said. “I’m willing to take advantage of all the opportunities that I have and keep pushing forward and keep doing my job.”
In addition to Brady being back, long snapper Danny Aiken was at practice, giving the Patriots perfect attendance for the first time in a month. Aiken, like Brady, missed Wednesday’s workout with an illness.
As Sunday approaches, the Patriots appear to be getting healthier. Cornerback Kyle Arrington was removed from the injury report, and four players who were limited on Wednesday — cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, linebacker Dane Fletcher, left guard Logan Mankins, and running back Shane Vereen — participated fully on Thursday.
That left five players who were limited: punter Ryan Allen (shoulder), receivers Danny Amendola (groin), Aaron Dobson (foot), and Kenbrell Thompkins (hip/concussion), and linebacker Dont’a Hightower (ankle).
The Broncos also were at full strength Thursday, with not even one player limited.
If there’s one number the Patriots would like to change from their first meeting with the Broncos, it’s 280. That was Denver’s rushing total, the most ever allowed by a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots team.
Knowshon Moreno had 224 yards, on 37 carries.
The Patriots’ plan was geared more toward stopping the pass — Peyton Manning was held to a season-low 150 yards — and the Patriots did win. But 280 was an awful big number.
“It definitely bothers you, of course,” said defensive end Rob Ninkovich. “Anybody on defense, you pride yourself on stopping the run, and when they are able to run the ball on you, it is not a good feeling.
“You can’t have games like that where you’re giving up that many yards on the ground.
“First and foremost, when you’re a defensive lineman, you need to stop the run. If you can’t stop the run, they are not going to want to throw the ball anyway.”
Matthew Slater did not want to hazard a guess as to why a poll revealed Brady to be the most disliked quarterback in the NFL. Asked if the animosity for Brady was rooted in his success on and off the field, Slater replied, “I don’t know. That’s a surprising stat.
“If you know Tom, you love him. I guess you’ve got to put it on the fact they don’t know him. But we love him.’’
Brady was also asked about the poll, and had fun with it.
“There are probably a lot of reasons,” he said. “I don’t know, that’s a great question.”
Reminded that he’s married to a supermodel and presumably lives a comfortable life, Brady said, “I live a great life. I’m not sure. You’d probably have to ask the people polled. There’s nothing I’d rather do than play football for the New England Patriots. And yes, I have a great family.”
Given the Patriots’ struggles on the road — all four of their losses came away from Gillette Stadium — Slater was asked how much of a concern it will be for the team to be playing on the Broncos’ turf. “I think we can’t be concerned where the game is being played,’’ he said. “If we line it up here in the parking lot, we just have to focus on our execution and our preparation. At the end of the day, it’s football. Whether we play here or there, it’s football and we just have to do our job and execute our assignment.” . . . Nice line by Shane Vereen, who was asked his thoughts about the Brady-Manning rivalry, and the fact that he was in college when they first went head-to-head. “College? I was high school, maybe elementary school,” said Vereen, who would have been 12 when Brady and Manning first squared off, on Sept. 30, 2001 . . . Willie McGinest, who played linebacker on the team from 1994-2005, will be honorary captain for Sunday’s game. McGinest was the first Patriots draft pick after Robert Kraft purchased the team.