,FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots have come back from injuries before, winning three Super Bowls and reaching a fourth despite losing Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymour, Junior Seau and Drew Bledsoe.
Now they will try to do it without Tom Brady.
The 2007 NFL Most Valuable Player will miss the entire '08 season with a left knee injury that needs surgery, the team said Monday. That leaves the Patriots without one of the game's great quarterbacks and severely damages their hopes of a return trip to the Super Bowl.
Coach Bill Belichick would not say what the injury is, but the play, Brady's reaction and the prognosis all point toward a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
"As a team we all just have to do our jobs. That really doesn't change," Belichick said Monday, a day after Brady's knee collapsed under him when he was hit by Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard in a 17-10 victory over Kansas City. "He played one position, he played it very well. We have somebody else playing that position now."
The Patriots issued a one-paragraph statement that the two-time Super Bowl MVP will have surgery and be placed on injured reserve. That leaves them in the hands of a backup who's barely been tested -- in part because of Brady's 128-game starting streak that was the third-longest for a quarterback in NFL history.
Matt Cassel, who guided New England to its 20th consecutive regular-season victory after Brady was hurt, will start Sunday at the New York Jets. It will be the first meaningful start since high school for Cassel, who backed up Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at Southern Cal and spent the last three years holding a clipboard for Brady.
"I'm not trying to be Tom Brady. I'm just trying to be Matt Cassel," he said when subbing for Brady on his regular weekly radio show. "I don't know where that's going to take us."
Brady took the Patriots to three NFL titles since 2001 and led them to a perfect record in the regular season last year before a loss in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants deprived them of a fourth championship and an unprecedented 19-0 season. They had been favored to return -- before Brady's injury.
"We're not going to tank it the rest of the season. That's not going to happen," defensive lineman Richard Seymour said in a somber and nearly empty Patriots locker room. Seymour was across from where Brady's locker remained stocked with equipment and personal items. "There's always a way to win. We're not going to have a lot of excuses about it."
Even without Brady, the Patriots remain a team stocked with veterans in a mediocre division, and with one of the most successful coaches in NFL history.
"The leadership on this team will take care of itself," offensive lineman Matt Light said. "I expect (Cassel) to do his job, and that's the same thing he expects from each one of us. There's nobody on this team that we don't have confidence in. You can't have a better mentor than Tom Brady."
The Patriots have just two quarterbacks on the roster: Cassel and rookie Kevin O'Connell. Matt Gutierrez, who signed as an undrafted free agent before the 2007 season and has thrown one career pass, was released in the final cutdowns before the season.
But Belichick denied media reports that out-of-work quarterbacks Chris Simms and Tim Rattay were headed to Foxborough to take physicals or to audition.
"In spite of what some people are putting out there, we haven't worked out anybody," he said. "We had a lot of people call us, I can tell you that."
For now, Cassel is his starter.
"I'm happy for his opportunity to have a chance to play," said Leinart, who, ironically, is now a backup with the Arizona Cardinals. "I'm bummed for Tom. You just hope he can heal as well as he can and get back out there as soon as he can. But Matt will step up. I think he'll be all right."
Pollard, who apologized to Brady immediately after the play, said Monday that it was a normal play and prayed for Brady's speedy recovery.
"I can't change what happened," he said. "As soon as the play happened, I said, 'Oh, man.' When I heard him scream, I knew it was serious."
While not calling Pollard's play dirty, Belichick said his players are taught to hit quarterbacks between the knees and shoulders. Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork complained that he was penalized and fined for a hit similar to Pollard's, but league spokesman Greg Aiello said supervisor of officials Mike Pereira determined it was legal.
"It is not a foul because the defensive player was coming off and affected by a block by the offense," Aiello said.
A former fourth-stringer who was the 199th overall selection in the 2000 draft, Brady himself took over at quarterback when Bledsoe sustained a life-threatening chest injury in a 2001 game against the New York Jets. Brady led the Patriots to their first NFL title that year, another in 2003 and another in 2004.
Belichick said comparing this season to 2001 was like comparing "apples to grapefruit."
But Patriots players cited that experience as proof they could do it again.
"Everybody here understands that things like this happen; they've happened before," Light said. "I feel good about this football team."
Brady missed the entire preseason with an unspecified foot injury, then left the season opener 7:33 into the first quarter. After being tended to on the field, Brady walked off, limping, between two trainers. He went to the locker room and wasn't seen on the sideline again.
"We feel badly for Tom about the injury," Belichick said Monday. "You hate to see anyone go down. No one has worked harder or done more for this team than Tom has."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Brodie Croyle has a separated shoulder and Damon Huard will start at quarterback this week against Oakland.
"He's not done for the year," Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said Monday. "It's week to week.
"They're still looking at it and they're going to send it off to some other (medical experts), but that's what it looks like."
Croyle was injured when thrown to the ground in the third quarter of New England's 17-10 victory Sunday, a nightmare game for quarterbacks. The Patriots' Tom Brady, last season's league MVP, will undergo season-ending knee surgery because of a hit by Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard in the first quarter. The league on Monday said the hit was clean.
Croyle was hurt when he was sacked and slammed to the turf on his shoulder. He tried to throw on the sideline, but immediately indicated he was through for the day.
Huard came in and had the Chiefs on the Patriots 5-yard line when they ran out of downs.
This leaves the Chiefs with only two quarterbacks, Huard and Tyler Thigpen. They will probably be in the market for a third quarterback until Croyle returns.
"We might bring in a few. We're kind of huddling up. We haven't really talked about names or anything like that," Edwards said.
Huard, 35, has come to the rescue of injured Chiefs quarterbacks more than once. The 12-year veteran is less mobile than Croyle and probably won't be asked to execute as many bootlegs and rollouts in Kansas City's new offense.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- While defending their quarterback from critics worried about his mental state on Monday, the Tennessee Titans had to reschedule a test on Vince Young's sprained left knee.
Detractors claimed Young quit on his team in the season opener.
Young was intercepted midway through the fourth quarter of the 17-10 win over Jacksonville and walked to the sideline to a heavy chorus of boos from the hometown fans. He threw his helmet and sat on a bench with a towel over his head. His defense forced Jacksonville into a three-and-out, and the offense went on the field -- with Young still on the sideline.
Backup Kerry Collins started taking a couple practice snaps, and coach Jeff Fisher pulled off his headset to talk with Young. The quarterback then put on his helmet and took the field. Four plays later, he rolled out on a bootleg and Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith collided with Young's left knee.
Fisher said at his Monday afternoon news conference that they did not have the test results on Young's knee. The team said approximately four hours later that an MRI had to be rescheduled for Tuesday. The team promises to release the results then.
Fisher still faced questions about what happened Sunday. As he did then, Fisher said the discussion only involved Young's tight hamstring and whether he could play.
Asked about how upset he looked, Fisher cautioned against reading too much into his taking off the headset.
"I had an offensive group on the field and the referee is getting ready to wind the play clock, and I had a quarterback on the sideline. If I appeared upset, it's because I wanted to get my quarterback on the field so we could go. So that's the long of it. I think we're making an awful lot over the fact that there was some communication on the sideline," Fisher said Monday.
"I think the bigger issue now is his knee. I'd be (more) concerned about his knee than what happened yesterday."
"Obviously, if you're dealing with a third-degree MCL sprain, you're probably out a couple of weeks and not back to 100 percent for three or four weeks," Fisher said.