By Kimberly Jones
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The superstar athlete, team captain and first-ballot Hall of Famer when his time comes has no desire to talk about injury – or illness – and when asked about personal legacy or on-field matchups would prefer to talk team.

In other words, it’s far more “we” than “I” with this guy. Who, by the way, knows plenty about winning a championship. Make that championships.

Sounds a lot like Derek Jeter, doesn’t it?

Sure does. But it’s January, not October, so we’re referring to Tom Brady, who on Thursday deftly deflected inquiry about competing against Peyton Manning and had zero interest in detailing the illness that kept him from practicing Wednesday.

“It was nothing,” Brady said. “I feel great. Nothing at all.”

If there’s one thing I learned about Jeter during my seven years as the Yankees’ clubhouse reporter for the YES Network, it was that he hated – truly hated – answering questions about injuries. He was always “fine,” was always going to be in the lineup the next day. (Which is why we didn’t doubt his sincerity for a moment when Jeter called his 2013 season “a nightmare.” But we digress.)

It strikes us that Brady and Jeter, as athletes, probably have more in common than not. And that notion was reinforced when Brady, who has thrown for fewer than 200 yards in three straight games, said, “I’ll throw for 50 yards as long as we win.”

Of course, he’ll have to do more than that Sunday in Denver.

Manning has all of his weapons back, and the Patriots will have to deal with a Denver team that was 7-1 at home during the regular season and whatever effects the change in altitude brings.

Brady played the underdog card on Monday but hasn’t harped on it, at least not publicly.

“When you play against one of the best teams in the league, you realize there’s very little margin of error,” he said.

Asked about “the historical context in which this game is played between two future Hall of Famers going at it again,” Brady’s response started with this: “I’m pretty much focused on this week. I don’t really think about those things truthfully. It’s just not where my mind is. He’s a great player, they’ve got a great team and one of the best offenses in history. I think what that means for us is we better be ready to score some points because that’s what they do best.”

He added several sentences before concluding that answer: “They’ve been playing great since the opening day of the season. We’ve kind of had to find our way a little bit. But none of it really matters, it’s just all about this game.”

And it’s a game that, to most of us, is about Manning vs. Brady. Brady vs. Manning, for the 15th time, with Brady having 10 wins in the series. If Brady doesn’t see it that way, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, somewhere, a certain shortstop probably understands.

Rex signs extension! So, Rex Ryan officially got a contract extension Thursday, but it was a little more complicated than that.

First, it was leaked/learned that Ryan, whose contract had about $3 million and only the 2014 season remaining, received a multi-year deal. The Jets declined comment, but indications are that Ryan is guaranteed only the 2014 and 2015 seasons. As my NFL Network colleague Ian Rapoport and I reported earlier this month, Woody Johnson always was going to extend the contract by one year so Ryan wouldn’t be a true lame duck next fall.

The extra years in the new deal, according to myriad sources and reports, are tied to Ryan and the Jets reaching the playoffs. Call all of this convenient window dressing for a franchise, an owner, who understandably did not want to commit long-term to a head coach who hasn’t made the playoffs for three years running, and for a coach who understandably tired of questions about his own job security in recent months.

It’s funny, because if Ryan truly were willing to bet on himself – and we originally believed he was – he’d coach out next season, advance to the postseason and earn a fat new contract. Instead, he’s got a new contract that, frankly, is being made to sound more secure than it truly is.

Whatever the case, Ryan deserved to keep his job and apparently has found some peace in a new contract. Whatever the fine print says.

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