ROBERT E KLEIN / AP Enlarge
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Tom Brady ran through agility drills and said he's ready to play in the New England Patriots' opener. Bill Belichick isn't ready to say that will happen.
Neither is much of a surprise.
It would be a big surprise if the record-setting quarterback, who had a right foot injury and missed all four exhibition games, doesn't start Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"If it's up to me, there's no question" Brady said yesterday. "I've been getting progressively better over the past couple of weeks. I'm excited. I'm excited to start the year."
The secretive Belichick deflected a question about whether last season's NFL MVP would start Sunday.
"We will give you the injury report on Friday," he said. "We will give you the practice report after we practice."
Brady didn't want to anger a coach who tells his players not to reveal too much injury information. So he wouldn't estimate how close to 100 percent he was health-wise.
"I don't know," Brady said with a smile. "Coach hates percentages, so I usually don't give them."
No matter the percentage, all signs point to Brady extending his playing streak to 128 games, third most in history among NFL quarterbacks. Only Brett Favre (275) and Peyton Manning (173) have longer streaks, and both are still going on.
PATRIOTS/O'NEAL: New England has signed two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Deltha O'Neal.
The move came two days after O'Neal was released by the Cincinnati Bengals and cornerback Fernando Bryant, an exhibition-season starter, was released by the Patriots.
The Patriots needed help at cornerback after releasing Bryant before Saturday's 4 p.m. deadline for teams to reduce their rosters to the 53-player regular-season limit.
RAVENS/FLACCO: Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco will start in the season opener Sunday for Baltimore, who awarded the job to their top draft pick because he's the healthiest player at the position.
Flacco, the 18th pick overall, will launch his NFL career against the Cincinnati Bengals. There is a chance the two other quarterbacks competing for the job, Troy Smith and Kyle Boller, both will not be available as backups.
Smith is still feeling the effects of infected tonsils, and Boller has a sore shoulder that could ultimately require surgery. In an effort to add depth, the Ravens worked out quarterbacks Chris Simms, Joey Harrington, and Todd Bouman yesterday.
BENGALS/JOHNSON: Receiver Chad Johnson declined to say whether he will try to get Cincinnati to put "Ocho Cinco" on the back of his uniform this season.
Johnson had his last name legally changed to "Ocho Cinco" - the moniker he gave himself based on his No. 85 - last week in Florida, where he lives. He declined to talk to reporters about the reason for it.
Johnson caught 93 passes for 1,440 yards last season, when his relationship with local fans soured over his attention-getting antics during games. He tried to maneuver the Bengals into trading him in the offseason, but failed. Ankle surgery slowed him at the start of training camp, and he injured his left shoulder during the second preseason game.
RAIDERS/LELIE: Oakland agreed to terms on a one-year contract with discarded receiver Ashley Lelie in hopes that the former first-round pick can regain his form and help bolster an inexperienced position group.
Before adding Lelie, the Raiders were extremely thin at receiver behind starters Javon Walker and Ronald Curry. With Drew Carter sidelined by a season-ending knee injury, Johnnie Lee Higgins was the only one of Oakland's three backup receivers who had even played in an NFL game, catching six passes as a rookie.
Lelie, who has 206 receptions in six NFL seasons, could give JaMarcus Russell a deep-play option if he proves he is healthy. He had been cut by the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday after being slowed all preseason by a calf injury.
NFL/UPSHAW: Players will wear a uniform patch this season to honor NFL Players' Association leader Gene Upshaw, who died Aug. 20.
The league announced the patch will have the initials GU and the number 63, which he wore while playing for the Oakland Raiders.
Upshaw died of pancreatic cancer just three days after he was diagnosed.
The patch will be worn on the left chest of jerseys and is scheduled to make its debut Thursday, when the New York Giants and Washington Redskins open the season. Upshaw's wife, Terri, and his three sons will participate in the coin toss.
Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck returned to practice yesterday and expects to start Sunday's regular-season opener in Buffalo.
Hasselbeck participated in just his second full practice since injuring his back nearly a month ago.
The Pro Bowl quarterback has played just two series of a preseason game since a January playoff loss.
Hasselbeck hurt his back following a practice shortly before the first preseason game Aug. 8 at Minnesota.
Hasselbeck made his third Pro Bowl last season while setting Seattle records for completions (352), attempts (562), and yards passing (3,966).37.80112 -122.2331