Garoppolo performance a definitive retort to training camp criticism

Garoppolo performance a definitive retort to training camp criticism

FOXBORO -- As it turns out, all Jimmy Garoppolo needed was a different set of jerseys to compete against.

After nine relatively lackluster practices, the Jaguars came to town earlier this week, and Garoppolo's performances suddenly improved. He was accurate in two fully-padded joint sessions on Monday and Tuesday. On Thursday, he submitted what was perhaps his best preseason game in three-plus years as a professional.

JAGUARS 31, PATRIOTS 24

Tom Brady's backup went 22-for-28 for 235 yards and two touchdowns as his team's starter against Jacksonville. While the line was nice, the broader takeaways were that he was accurate, he took care of the football, he bounced back from some early hits, and he executed what Bill Belichick likes to call "situational football" -- particularly in a two-minute drill to finish the first half.

Running the Patriots hurry-up offense, Garoppolo went 7-for-7 and completed two well-placed passes to undrafted rookie Austin Carr. The first found Carr alone near the Jags sideline for a 20-yard gain. After two more quick-hitting strikes, Garoppolo scrambled to keep a play alive and threw off his back foot to find Carr in the back of the end zone for an acrobatic score.

Not bad for a guy who seemed to find the arms of opposing defensive backs more often than he would've liked during the early portion of camp, throwing seven interceptions over the course of several practices against his own teammates.

After going into the locker room, Garoppolo emerged still hot. He hit each of his next three passes -- including a well-thought-out pass down the seam to tight end Jacob Hollister, who was wide open because Garoppolo moved the free safety with a pump-fake -- and finished the drive with a short touchdown pitch to KJ Maye.

When Garoppolo gave way to Jacoby Brissett with about five minutes left in the third quarter, he did so with a clean performance under his belt (22-for-28, 235 yards, 2 TDs). And perhaps most impressively, he did it after taking a few big shots early on while playing behind a not-so-stout offensive line.

That he finished the game the way he did after being sacked by Yannick Ngakoue and then taking another huge hit from Ngakoue on the very next drive? Had to be encouraging for a Patriots coaching staff that had little to be encouraged about after Garoppolo's first handful of practices this summer.

Hightower happy to be back in New England following free agency

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Hightower happy to be back in New England following free agency

FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower met with reporters to talk football on Wednesday morning at Gillette Stadium, the first time he had done so since signing an extension with the Patriots back in March.

About five months later, no regrets.

"It’s good. I’m glad I didn’t have to relocate," Hightower said with a smile. "Stressful, but glad it’s over with. Glad I’m here. I’m glad I’m back on the field now."

Hightower, who was removed from the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday, explained that there was a point during the free agency process at which he believed he might end up playing elsewhere. 

"Yeah, it’s free agency," Hightower said. "But it is what it is. It’s over and done with now. I’m here."

On spending his career to this point in New England and being a member of the Patriots, Hightower added: "It’s meant a lot. I’ve been here my whole career. It wasn’t a hard change for what I had in college, so I was definitely used to it. So it wasn’t a big change. I feel like I’ve had a lot of success in programs like this. Alabama and New England are not too far different. The culture around here, the teammates, the coaches is second to none anywhere. When it came down to my decision, it wasn’t too hard of a choice."

Brady recalls scrubbing rooftops, cleaning industrial parks during summers at Michigan

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Brady recalls scrubbing rooftops, cleaning industrial parks during summers at Michigan

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady's not sure if he'll be able to get back to Ann Arbor as he and the Patriots spend some time this week in the state of Michigan leading up to their preseason game against the Lions on Friday. He's hoping he'll be able to sneak over at some point. Maybe he'll have an opportunity to talk to the football team.

On Wednesday, Brady described his time at Michigan as the "pit stop" of his life's journey from California to Massachusetts. It's also representative of the midpoint of his life now in a way since he spent 18 years growing up on the West Coast, and now he's in his 18th year in New England. 

As part of his college experience, Brady learned what it was like to work a job that didn't involve throwing a football. As it turned out, those experiences didn't provide much in the way of on-the-job training for his eventual career. But he didn't know he was going to become a Hall of Fame quarterback. When the fifth round came and went in 2000, he said on Facebook back in 2014, he figured those summer internships during his Michigan days and the resume they beefed up might help him land a gig that would pay the bills. 

"Those were good experiences," he said Wednesday. "I was at Michigan in the summer. You work different jobs, you get a scholarship check, but you're trying to afford -- like all of us were -- our coll experience. I worked in construction. Worked at a golf course to play free golf. That's what I liked to do. Worked at a festival at night so I was working two jobs. It was good experiences. It really was hard work."

And it might have taken his appreciation for playing football -- something he plans to do at an age when most players have been retired for a decade or more -- to a different level.

"I've been so fortunate to do something I love to do," he said. "I've said for a long time, working out and training and being on the practice field never feels like work for me. That definitely felt like work when you're cleaning up industrial parks and scrubbing the tops of roofs and stuff like that. Man, I was pretty tired at the end of those days."