Tom Brady back at Pats' facility

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady was at practice Thursday morning, one day after missing on-field work because of illness.

Brady returned to the New England Patriots' facility as the team continues its preparations for Sunday's AFC title game against the Broncos in Denver.

The 36-year-old quarterback had not missed a practice this season before Wednesday's absence.

The only quarterback on the field Wednesday, backup Ryan Mallett, served as primary signal-caller and emulated Peyton Manning for the defense. "It was a lot of fun," Mallett said about taking first-team reps. "I like getting to play in our offense."

In a lighthearted moment Wednesday, coach Bill Belichick, upon being asked to recall the last time Brady surprised him, replied, "This morning." When asked what had surprised him, the coach said: "We'll keep that between Tom and I."

The Patriots had perfect attendance at practice Thursday morning, as long-snapper Danny Aiken (who also missed Wednesday's session because of illness) returned to the field.

Punter Ryan Allen, who left Saturday's divisional round win over the Indianapolis Colts with a shoulder injury, and receiver Aaron Dobson, who practiced Wednesday for the first time this postseason, were present and taking part in practice during media availability.

Brady is expected to meet with the media at 12:45 p.m. ET Thursday, and again Friday morning before the team's final practice of the week.

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