BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had an encouraging report on his injured passing hand, although Eagles fans might not find it encouraging.

"It is getting better," Brady said during Tuesday's Super Bowl media session. "It is not quite where quite where I want to be, so I am trying to protect it the best way I can."

Brady injured his right hand during practice on Jan. 17, reportedly in a handoff exchange with running back Rex Burkhead. According to NFL Network, he had 12 stitches that have since been removed.

Even with the injured hand, Brady completed 26 of 38 passes for 290 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the Patriots' 24-20 AFC championship win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Brady will appear in his eighth Super Bowl when the Patriots meet the Eagles on Sunday in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

"I want to be as healthy as possible for the game on Sunday," Brady said. "Under Armour made for me a great glove, it's got a lot of recovery in it and that is what I need at this time."

Brady praises former teammates

Brady had high praise for Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive end Chris Long, two former teammates. Blount and Brady won two Super Bowls together, while Long was a teammate for just one season, last year.

"I really enjoyed my time with Chris, he is a helluva player," Brady said. "He made huge plays for us last year and he's made some great plays for the Eagles this year."

Brady then added that he hopes he doesn't have any close encounters with Long on Sunday.

"I hope he doesn't hit me too hard if he gets a shot, and hope he respects his elders out there," Brady said, playing to the huge audience at his press conference.

The praise was just as effusive for Blount, who Brady says he still keeps in contact with frequent text messages.

"I love LeGarrette," Brady said. "He is an incredible player, an incredible running back, incredible player, he does everything, catches the ball, blitz pickup, [runs] inside, outside and he is a very clutch player and I have a ton of respect for him."

Big A.I. fan

Growing up in Texas, Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills always had his sights on Philadelphia, at least concerning the NBA.

Mills says he was a huge Allen Iverson fan when A.I. was starring with the Sixers

How big?

"I was 7-8 years old and I had an Allen Iverson bandana, I wore the sleeve," Mills said.

Mills, who has as much confidence as any Eagle, says he loved Iverson's tenacity and grit.

"He wouldn't back down from anybody," Mills said.

Mills said he played basketball a lot as a youngster but shifted to football after the age of 10.

A standout at DeSoto (Texas) High, Mills says as much as he admired Iverson, he couldn't bring himself to be a Sixers fan growing up.

"I was an A.I. fan for sure, but I was a Lakers fan because they had Shaq and Kobe," Mills said.

Michaels lauds Eagles

NBC will be televising the Super Bowl, which means the legendary Al Michaels will call the action.

"I like this game a lot," Michael said on Tuesday. "It is not going to be a walkover."

The Patriots opened as a six-point favorite, but the line has dropped. Michaels said New England should be favored, but …

"If [Nick] Foles plays the way he did against Minnesota two weeks ago, [the Eagles] have a heck of a chance," Michaels said, referring to Foles' 352 yards, three touchdowns and 141.4 passer rating in the 38-7 NFC title game win over the Vikings. "And on the other side of the ball, they have a great defense, and [can] pressure Brady and all of that."

Belichick quote of the day

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, as most know, isn't the most gregarious speaker during press conferences. When asked if he loved winning or hated losing more, he replied: "We always play to win."

Next question.