FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — If Tom Brady had a sense of humor – and, yes, his Facebook posts are often quite witty – he would have entered his media conference Wednesday morning with the aid of a cane or crutches, tossing both aside when he reached the podium and declared himself healthy.

But this being a serious time of year for the New England Patriots, the mere fact that he was walking without a limp is probably good enough for Patriots fans.

“I’m feeling better,” Brady said when asked about his health. “Better than I was a couple of days ago.”

Brady suffered a right ankle sprain in the first half of Sunday’s 20-10 loss in Miami when he was rolled by Dolphins 307-pound defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. In that instant, Patriots Nation held its collective breath. This team already has been slammed by injuries, ending the seasons of several players (LeGarrette Blount, Dion James, Nate Solder, Dominique Easley) and limiting the contributions of others (Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty). Had Brady been seriously injured, its Super Bowl hopes would have evaporated.

Brady appears to be fine. He was among the last players out for the team’s walk-through practice at Gillette Stadium, and casually jogged – again without a limp – over to his teammates.

Brady didn’t speak for long to the media – less than five minutes. But he made it clear that he is going to do everything he can to be healthy for New England’s playoff game on Jan. 16 against an opponent to be determined this weekend.

The week off the team earned with its 12-4 record comes at an opportune time. New England’s bye week came in the fourth week of the regular season. The Patriots have played 13 consecutive weeks since, and many players needed this week off to heal from various injuries, Brady among them.

“Our bye week was a long time ago so this is the first time we’ve been off for quite a while,” said Brady. “A lot of guys have been fighting through different bumps and bruises over the course of the season so (you) try to take advantage of that as best you can to feel good because we’re going to need everybody a week from Saturday to be at their very best.

“It’s just a lot of time obviously preparing for a lot of different scenarios, and you try to do your best mentally to get ready and physically you’ve just got to put as much effort as you can to make yourself feel good.”

Brady’s been through this before. As he said in a radio interview on Monday, “I’ve had plenty worse injuries than this one.”

And he’s been a pretty durable quarterback. He’s made 124 consecutive starts. He had a previous streak of 128 consecutive starts that was halted after one game in 2008, when he suffered a knee injury in the first quarter of the opener and then missed the rest of the season.

So he knows a little something about getting ready.

“Mentally, I’m ready to go,” said Brady. “Physically, you always want to feel your best and I think you’ve just got to work as hard as you can at doing the right things to get to that point, so that’s where I feel like I’m at.”

Asked if this season has been difficult mentally for him because of Deflategate and his ensuing fight with the NFL, Brady said he’s focused on the playoffs.

“I think the football season is a challenge in a lot of ways for a lot of people,” he said. “I think I’m always up for the challenge.”

His teammates aren’t surprised that Brady is looking as good as he does right now.

“Nothing surprises me with the mental toughness, and the toughness, that Tom (shows) since Day One that I’ve been here,” said defensive end Rob Ninkovich. “He’s been the most competitive person that I’ve been around. And really he’s the best.

“Everything that he does, the time that he puts in, the preparation, the film study, the taking care of his body, is second to none.”

Brady is certainly using this week to prepare himself for what’s next. He deflected a question about the media’s handling of HGH allegations surrounding Peyton Manning compared to the coverage of Deflategate.

“I haven’t thought one bit about that so I’ve just tried to do my best to help our team win,” he said.

And that’s what this time of year is all about.

Brady is already the winningest quarterback in NFL postseason history (21 victories) and is tied for the most Super Bowl wins by a quarterback (four).

He also knows none of that matters right now. So he’s doing everything he can to get ready for the challenge ahead.

“I read a cool quote the other day,” he said. “It said, ‘I didn’t come this far to only come this far.’

“So we’ve still got further to go.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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