Preseason could prove to be big audition for Hoyer

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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."

WR Brandon Marshall provides player's perspective to owners on Day 2 of meetings

WR Brandon Marshall provides player's perspective to owners on Day 2 of meetings

PHOENIX - When league owners, coaches and executives come together for the NFL's annual meetings, those meetings are often devoid of those who have the biggest say in making the product what it is. 

The guys who play.

Brandon Marshall, newly-acquired wide receiver of the Giants, had an opportunity to provide the meetings with a player's perspective on Monday morning. 

The focus, he told reporters after addressing owners, was to highlight the importance of continuing to foster stronger relationships between the league and its players. 

It seemed to go over well, judging by a tweet sent out from Niners owner Jed York. 

"I think it's important for us to continue to do things like we did last year giving the players more of a voice," Marshall said. "You saw the campaign during Week 13 last year, My Cause My Cleats. That was super successful. It gave the world and our fans and the NFL the opportunity to see that we are people,  we're not just gladiators. It humanized us. 

"It not only gave people outside of the game that opportunity to see who we really were but also people in the game like owners, executives and even players. . .We want to continue to do more of that. If we want our game to continue to be on this track that it's on, being super successful, as far as being a pillar in the community, then we need to make sure that our relationships between players and owners is healthy."

Day 2 of the owners meetings will be highlighted by a decision on the fate of the Raiders franchise. The team is expected to have enough support from owners around the league to uproot and head to Las Vegas. 

Around midday in Phoenix, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is expected to speak to reporters about league affairs as well as his team's offseason activity. 

Steelers GM on Hightower: 'It didn't work'

Steelers GM on Hightower: 'It didn't work'

Speaking to reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Arizona, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert touched briefly on the team’s unsuccessful attempt to lure Dont’a Hightower away from New England in free agency. 

Hightower returned to the Patriots this month on a four-year, $43.5 million deal with $19 million guaranteed. He was also courted by the Jets and Steelers, among others, with his offer from the Jets reported to be the biggest before they reportedly pulled it due to physical concerns. 

The Steelers also reportedly offered more money than the Patriots, with Jason La Canfora reporting that Pittsburgh offered more than $9 million annually. Hightower’s deal with the Pats pays him $8.7 million per year. 

“We made an attempt [with Hightower], it didn’t work,” Colbert told reporters. “We’re fine. We move on. Vince Williams, we were very confident in Vince. That’s why we signed him to the extension last year. So that if we got to this point and Lawrence had left us, and we didn’t sign anybody from the outside, Vince was certainly capable of stepping up and being the next guy.”

Hightower is entering his sixth season with the Patriots, who selected him with the 25th overall pick in the 2012 draft.