Preseason could prove to be big audition for Hoyer


Preseason could prove to be big audition for Hoyer

FOXBORO -- It's an important time for Brian Hoyer.

One, it's the preseason -- which means he'll, you know, actually play. Two, he's going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this year. His performance over the next four preseason games could actually go a long way in determining what his future is in the NFL.

Hoyer can play, but going into his fourth season he hasn't been given the chance to prove it outside of the preseason or garbage time in the regular season. For his career, he's just 27-for-43 for 286 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers alone aren't going to blow anybody away, but perhaps three years under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick along with a strong fourth preseason is enough for a team to take a chance.

"I'm taking the same approach I have the last three years," Hoyer said of preseason play. "For me I know this is a guaranteed opportunity, and I'm gonna get the chance to play. I'm just going to take what I've done from the media room to the practice field and now to the game when the live bullets are flying and go out there and try to do everything right. Obviously you want to prepare for a perfect game, but it doesn't always end up that way so just go out there and try to do the best I can and get the team going when I'm in there and go from there."

The Patriots put a second-round tender on the Hoyer, who was a restricted free agent over the offseason, but no teams bit. That isn't to say they wouldn't bite for a third or fourth-round pick later on in the year, especially in a time of need.

New England would have to listen, already having another highly-touted backup in Ryan Mallett potentially taking over for Brady in eight years (kidding, kind of). The Pats went with just Brady and Hoyer in 2008 and 2009, and if Belichick has the same trust in Mallett, he'd go with just two again. They value roster spots around these parts, and using two on two quarterbacks who combined to throw one pass last year (Hoyer to Rob Gronkowski in Week 17) isn't ideal, but a necessary evil at the moment.

Without playing all season, it's tough to judge progression. Hoyer does it based on practice.

"Obviously they're filming practice every day so you can watch that and learn from that," he said. "There's always room to improve and with a guy like Tom Brady and now Josh McDaniels coming in and having him give his input there's been a lot of things that I've tried to improve on. And you just try to go out there every day in practice and kind of attack those things and then go and watch film afterwards and see how you did."

But opposing teams don't have practice footage (hold the Spygate jokes, please). They can only watch Hoyer's progression from one preseason to the next and at rare points during the regular season. The preseason opener Thursday night against the Saints will be the next big audition for him, and having seen them in practice over the last two days has sharpened his skills.

"I think it makes you stick to your rules," Hoyer said of throwing against the Saints. "After you see the same thing over and over and over you kind of know where to go right away. So now when a new scheme comes in it kind of really tests what you know and how well you know the system. So you have to stick to your rules and take what the defense gives you."

Report: Patriots sign LB Jonathan Freeny to two-year extension


Report: Patriots sign LB Jonathan Freeny to two-year extension

The Patriots have signed linebacker and special teamer Jonathan Freeny to a two-year contract extension through 2018, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported.

Freeney, 27, was originally signed by the Patriots to a one-year free-agent deal in March 2015 after spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins. He then earned a one-year extension last September and played 13 games, seven starts, with 50 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. 



49ers' Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for national anthem ignites controversy


49ers' Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for national anthem ignites controversy

Colin Kaepernick was already a noteable NFL player as the one-time, and now apparently former, face of the San Francisco 49ers.

The quarterback likely will gain even more notoriety for his stance on refusing to stand for the national anthem at a preseason game on Friday:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told Steve Wyche of NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

In a statement released Saturday, the NFL said players "are encouraged but not required to" stand for the anthem.

More here from Mike Florio of's Pro Football Talk on Kaepernick and Florio on the NFL's statement in response.



Curran: Impact of Brady's suspension already being felt on field

Curran: Impact of Brady's suspension already being felt on field

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It’s an inconvenient and uncomfortable truth that can’t just be blissfully ignored.

The pound of flesh Roger Goodell extracted from the Patriots in the form of Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension is starting to hurt.

Friday night, we watched the less-than-ideal quarterback rotation between Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo unfold. 

Garoppolo completed a 17-yard dart to Aaron Dobson on his first throw of the night. He completed eight of his next 14 for 40 yards – an ugly yards per attempt average of 3 – took a sack, threw a would-be pick and had a fumble. He looked skittish, indecisive and a thousand miles away from being in total command.

The Brady suspension was designed to punish the Patriots and it is.

Garoppolo played three ineffective series at the start of the game. He got the hook after that and the predictable power surge that came when Brady was on the field instead of the guy who – on this night – couldn’t get anything done was almost tangible.

Garoppolo’s first pass went to Dobson went for 17? Brady dialed up the same player and the play went for 37. Three of Brady’s six incompletions were drops (one was a near pick) and his 33-yard touchdown throw would have given every quarterback in the league except maybe Aaron Rodgers inadequacy issues.

I asked Garoppolo earlier in the week about trying to take command of the team while still remaining deferential to Brady’s status as TFB, future Hall of Famer. Garoppolo admitted it was tough.

How can it not be when the reminders are everywhere, including the pregame exit from the locker room and the trot onto the field. 

Brady is the leader. Jimmy is the long-term substitute. Substitutes don’t have it easy.

There is no solution for what’s going on. It is the ultimate, “Is what it is…” scenario. Can’t do anything about it, so everyone’s got to deal with it.

For Brady on Friday night, that meant staying apart from pretty much everyone for most of the first quarter.

When the Patriots offense was on the bench, he stood with arms folded and jaw set staring onto the field with the occasional glance up at the replay board or over at the area where Garoppolo, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and rookie Jacoby Brissett were going over plans.

When the Patriots offense took the field, Brady retreated to the bench and sat alone. There were two interactions during the first three series came when strength coach Moses Cabrera went to Brady and clapped him on the shoulder pads then rubbed his head as Brady sat on the bench. The other came when Brady sidled up to Brissett and asked him to play catch.

This is not open hostility. This is not Brady trying to undermine Garoppolo. But anyone expecting to see Brady putting an arm around Garoppolo every time he came off the field and publicly lend an ear to Jimmy isn’t getting that. Who knows, maybe Garoppolo doesn’t want that, maybe Brady thinks it’d be counter-productive, maybe McDaniels wants there to be one voice in Garoppolo’s ear during games. The fact is, it’s not cozy.

And you shouldn’t expect it to be. Brady is a quarterback who – while still at the height of his powers – is being forever reminded that the party for him is almost over.

Belichick himself did it the day he drafted Garoppolo. Consider again what was said: 

“The situation we have at quarterback, I think that we felt as an organization that we needed to address that to some degree in the future, so we’ll see how all that works out,” Belichick said during the 2014 draft when Garoppolo was taken in the second round. “I think we’re better off being early than being late at that position. We know what Ryan [Mallett’s] contract situation is. We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is. I don’t think you want to have one quarterback on your team. I don’t think that’s responsible to the entire team or the organization."

Age? Contract? Rather be early at that position than late?

Brady’s best method for combating speculation about when he’d be put out to pasture has been to own his position with peerless play and turn in – in my opinion – the best Super Bowl performance a quarterback’s ever had.

Not only is Brady miles away from being ripe for the picking, the only reason Garoppolo’s playing at all is because of a BS investigation and punishment that turned Brady’s life upside down and besmirched his name.

Garoppolo taking Brady’s reps, taking Brady’s team for a month is the punishment for Deflategate. Watching Jimmy G. play is the punishment Brady was handed. No wonder he’s standing with arms folded and jaw set.

If you simply look at the dynamics between players of Brady’s ilk and their would-be successors you realize that expecting Brady to go merrily along and show no signs of agitation is absurd. Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, Joe Montana and Steve Young, Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. In each, the incumbent wasn’t real keen on wet-nursing the new guy.

Garoppolo’s case is a little different, though. He has no illusions about being better than Brady (that little 25-for-25 day from Brady in the intrasquad scrimmage earlier this month probably helped put that to bed). 

Garoppolo just wants to come in, play well, do his job and not step on any toes. He’s not looking to create a quarterback controversy. But he can’t afford to be deferential anymore or concerned about how the legend in his shadow feels or how he feels about the legend in his shadow.

He just has to go play. Something that Brady – very soon – won’t be able to do.