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Brady plans to start regular-season finale

FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) _ Tom Brady grew up a 49ers fan, so it hurt when they didn't draft him. Then other teams bypassed him and he wondered if he'd even have a career in football.

So he's eager to play against San Francisco on Sunday, even though the New England Patriots are locked into the second spot in the AFC playoffs.

You're the 199th pick in the draft. I'll never forget those days,'' he said Wednesday.You start putting scenarios in your head. I'm sitting there thinking, well, what do I want to do with my life? I'm glad the Patriots called.''

They didn't do that until six other quarterbacks had been drafted in 2000, starting with Chad Pennington in the first round by the New York Jets. The next one chosen was by the 49ers, who took Giovanni Carmazzi of Hofstra in the third round. He never played a down for them.

Brady has two Super Bowl MVP awards and has led the Patriots to a 13-2 record going into Sunday's regular-season finale against a team that his best friends still root for.

I've been looking forward to it for a long time,'' he said.You're going to see me starting. I know that.''

Other teams rested their starting quarterbacks after being locked into their playoff spots. Last weekend, Atlanta's Michael Vick didn't play and Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb saw little action.

But Brady said he'll start Sunday even though the Patriots (13-2) should have an easy time against the 49ers (2-13) _ even if he missed the entire game.

Coach Bill Belichick, though, is treating it like any other game this season.

This week is as normal as it can be,'' he said.Whatever substitutions or whatever plays are called, those are coaching decisions. Players can't do anything about those. All they can do is go out there and do their job.''

He didn't say if he could give extra rest to starters or keep players nursing injuries out of the game. Defensive end Richard Seymour, who hurt his knee in last Sunday's 23-7 win over the Jets, is listed as doubtful for the game.

Cornerback Ty Law, who missed the last eight games after breaking his foot, is questionable and would benefit from an extra week heading into a first-round bye.

Troy Brown also can use a light work day after playing as a wide receiver and defensive back and on special teams. He doesn't know if he'll get it.

I have no idea. Whatever Bill says, that's what I do,'' he said.Most the time (fatigue) is more mental than physical. Most of the time when you're mentally tired your body kind of follows.''

The last few regular-season finales have been important to the Patriots.

Last season, they clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs with a 31-0 win over Buffalo. The previous year, an overtime win over Miami kept the Patriots alive for a playoff berth, but they were eliminated a few hours later when the Jets beat Green Bay to claim the AFC East title.

In 2001, they earned a first-round bye by beating Carolina in the last game, a major step toward their first Super Bowl championship.

Brady said he's just as likely to get hurt in practice as in a game. But he's the player the Patriots can least afford to lose, so why expose him to big defensive linemen on Sunday?

His main backup is Rohan Davey, who has completed 7 of 15 passes in three seasons with New England and is 3-for-6 this season.

We have to get ready to play,'' said Davey, offensive player of the year in NFL Europe.If you see a few snaps, you see a quarter or two or if you see a half a quarter, whatever it is, you get in there and you execute the game plan.

``Getting in there definitely will knock some rust off.''

Before Davey does that, Brady wants to remind the 49ers of what they passed up.

As a quarterback, it's not like I can go out and hit somebody to show them how (mad) I was,'' he said, butyou know who you're playing against.''

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