FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- I felt like I'd smuggled a spy into the New England Patriots' compound.
But we both were wearing club-issued media credentials, just a couple reporters watching Wednesday's minicamp session.
The major difference, though, was that she's a lot smarter than I am. ESPN's injury expert, Stephania Bell, sat with me in the metal bleachers above the Patriots' upper practice fields and provided running commentary of how Tom Brady looked through her trained eyes.
Bell got her first glimpse since Brady's left knee crumpled last year on opening day. What she saw exceeded her already high expectations.
"The thing that's most impressive to me is how fluid he looks, that three-step drop, his motion, transitioning from the drop to throwing across his body," said Bell, a physical therapist who specializes in athletes and performing artists. "There's no hitch. There's no halting. It's all very smooth."
While Brady and his receivers drilled in front of us, she explained why throwing to his left was significant. She pointed out that when he planted his left leg, he put significant torque and weight on his rebuilt knee.
"There's a lot of rotation going through that lower extremity," Bell said. "Your knee bears a lot of stress when you put that kind of rotation on the leg because the hip rotates easily, the ankle rotates easily, but the knee as a structure isn't meant to rotate a lot. Therefore, it's going to be placed under a lot stress.
"He didn't exhibit any ill effects from that at all. He looked very, very smooth. He's throwing in a normal way. He's throwing across his body, stepping into it, planting his leg."
If you didn't know Brady had his ACL and MCL reattached eight months ago, you wouldn't have any clue he'd been injured. Although you could tell he was wearing a knee brace under his blue sweatpants.
"I knew by reports that he was doing all these things, and the clips I saw were positive," Bell said, "but to see him in person, moving as easily as he is, throwing the ball with as little effort as he is, he's not looking any different than any other guy on the field.
"The fact that he doesn't stand out, that he's just blending in with his routine is probably the most notable thing. They're not backing away from him. Granted, he's not facing any contact, but it all looks very easy and effortless."
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