Pats Backup QB Focusing On Transition
Foxborough, Mass. — Forget all the talk of Jimmy Garoppolo being the heir apparent to Tom Brady.
That’s what Garoppolo is doing.
The New England Patriots rookie quarterback is more concerned with preparing for the next practice, film session and team meeting.
“Each day is different and you have to be consistently good, not occasionally great,” he said Tuesday. “You have to come out here and do your best every single day and let the coaches see what you can do.”
So he’s not thinking about being Brady’s successor.
“You can’t really focus on it,” Garoppolo said. “If you focus on that, you’re focusing on the wrong thing. So my main focus is coming out here and just being very consistent day in and day out. It’s a grind.”
Besides, Brady wants to play as long as possible as he enters his 15th season.
The Patriots drafted Garoppolo in the second round, four rounds earlier than they chose Brady in 2000. As a senior at Eastern Illinois last year, Garoppolo threw for 53 touchdowns and nine interceptions and won the Walter Payton Award as the best player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Now he must make the jump from the second level of college football after being taken with the 62nd pick.
“The pace of pro practices is very fast,” Garoppolo said after the first day of the Patriots three-day mandatory minicamp. “I kind of expected that. There is a transition from the college to the NFL game. It’s something you have to get used to and great athletes do.”
How quickly he makes that transition could affect Ryan Mallett’s status as the Patriots No. 2 quarterback.
Mallett has thrown just four passes in three seasons since New England drafted him in the third round in 2011.
Brady’s previous backup was Brian Hoyer, who threw only 43 passes in three seasons after signing with the Patriots as an undrafted rookie in 2009. And from 2005-07, seventh-round pick Matt Cassel threw 39 passes after being drafted in the seventh round. The next year, he threw 516 passes after Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season opener.
So, barring an injury to Brady, chances are Garoppolo won’t play much.
Meanwhile, he’s learning from one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
“Guys look to him as a coach on the field and that’s what you want in a quarterback,” Garoppolo said. “So just watching and learning what he does, not so much what he tells me but just watching his mannerisms and everything, I’ve learned a lot.”
During organized team activities the past three weeks, Garoppolo’s poise was evident.
“He shocked me, man,” running back Stevan Ridley said. “He came in and he was confident. And he’s a rookie, though. Everybody’s going to make mistakes, but he’s been quiet and he’s been working hard. He’s really leading that rookie class coming in.
“I didn’t know too much about him but as I watched him, I liked him the more I watched him.”
During an 11-on-11 drill Tuesday, Garoppolo threw a long completion down the right sideline to wide receiver Jeremy Johnson, a rookie who signed as a free agent last Thursday.
“It was a good read,” Garoppolo said. “You see the safeties rotate and you get your eyes in the right place.”
At Eastern Illinois, his 118 touchdown passes broke the Ohio Valley Conference and school record of 85 set by Tony Romo. Last season, he led his team to a 12-2 record and an average of 48.2 points and 589.5 points per game.
But now he’s a rookie working hard to learn the pro game.
And Tuesday’s practice was just a small part of his day.
“It’s not close to being over,” he said with a laugh as he headed inside Gillette Stadium for more studying.
Notes: Coach Bill Belichick would like the draft restored to late April so players chosen would have more time to prepare. It was held this year from May 8-10. “That couple weeks there is time that was lost from when players could start preparing for their new team,” he said. “It’s not my decision, but I would vote for an earlier draft, absolutely.” ... The Patriots signed rookie free agent DL Seali’i Epenesa of UCLA.