WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – They're on opposite sidelines, but play the same position. One is a rookie, the other a world-renowned, five-time champion. So, what did the latter – 40-year-old Tom Brady – have to say when he pulled aside Texans QB Deshaun Watson, nearly half Brady's age at just 21, after Wednesday's joint session practice?
"As an older player, you kind of pass along words of advice," Brady began. "You meet other players in the league, younger players, and whether it's joint practices or other opportunities in the offseason, it's nice to meet a lot of guys.
"He's had such a great college career [at reigning national champion Clemson] and got picked by a great [NFL] team. So, watching him play, he has a great future. He has all the ability and it was great to meet him. Pro football players watch a lot of college players because Saturday night we're at the hotel and Clemson was on a lot. Obviously they won a lot of big games. It was great to meet him."
"It's always good to be able to learn and watch a guy like Tom Brady, one of the best to ever do it, and see him in live practice, how he works," remarked Watson. "We kind of congratulated each other on all the success we've had, and he had a little tip here and there on this league, this system, and Coach [Bill O'Brien]. It was a good talk."
Brady has often commented that he wishes he could take parts of other quarterbacks' skill sets and add them to his own. When asked about this and how it applies to the young, athletic Watson, Brady was as quick with his response as he usually is delivering the football to his receivers.
"If I could run a 4.7 [40-yard dash, like Watson can], I would have been the first overall pick. Unfortunately, I ran a 5.2," Brady smiled, before amending his thought to say, "probably would've been a fourth-rounder."
"Look, every player has strengths and weakness and you learn to play to your strengths, and you learn to develop your weaknesses. I'm still working on those things in my 18th [NFL] year… It's about improving the things that maybe you're not so good at, which I'm going to keep trying to do and keep building on the things you are good at."
Friends of Bill
As was the case a couple of years ago when the Patriots visited White Sulphur Springs, a number of notable faces showed up to watch the reigning Super Bowl champions this week at the Greenbrier.
NBA legend Jerry West, a native West Virginian, and former NFL quarterback Jeff Hostetler were in attendance on Tuesday. Hostetler played for the New York Giants when Bill Belichick served as defensive coordinator there in the 1980s and early '90s.
Aside from helping the Giants win Super Bowl XXV in relief of then-starter Phil Simms, Belichick recalled an interesting factoid about Hostetler.
"When you look back earlier on Jeff's career, he blocked a punt, he caught a pass… before he ever threw a pass in the league. I think that speaks to his versatility, his athleticism and really his ability to compete and get on the field. When there wasn't a role for him in his primary position, he found other roles and ways to contribute to the team."
On Wednesday, Belichick brought coaching pals Tony LaRussa and Tom Crean to practice. LaRussa, who won World Series titles as manager of Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics (1989) and St. Louis Cardinals (2006 and '11), was asked to describe his relationship with Belichick, which dates back many years.
"When we're together, I'm asking the questions, he's talking, and I'm taking notes. He's not taking my notes," LaRussa laughed, before revealing what he admires most about Belichick's coaching style.
"I believe his ability and his staff's ability, and his team's ability to start at zero every year – refuse to think about last year – is an important part of why they are so consistent. It's easy to celebrate the next year. The ability to turn the clock to zero is really impressive and very hard."
"My relationship with Tony has been great," Belichick emphasized. "I've learned a lot from somebody as accomplished as he is in another sport. I'll never forget the time he let me get in the dugout with him for an exhibition game. Baseball – it seems like just throw it and hit it, but there's a lot more to it than that. I saw just how much there is on every single pitch and the focus, concentration, all of that."
Crean, a college basketball coach most recently at Indiana University, offered his observations about Belichick, the coach and the person.
"Everything matters every day. As simple as that sounds, it's very complex and hard because there are so many things that can distract that, can interrupt that, can get in the way of it. When I think of fundamentals, and preaching the fundamentals and details on a day-to-day basis – and then watching it come out in his team – that's one place you're going to look. He leaves nothing to chance. It would be hard to imagine something missing his radar or the people that are around him.
"He's been very, very good to me, very helpful," added Crean. "I think that's one of the reasons he's such a great leader, great developer of teams, programs, players. He's always inquisitive. You can get an idea of how great he is with his team because of the way he helps his friends."
"Again, different sport," Belichick said of his kinship with Crean, "but I learned a lot from his organization… Different motivations, teachings, he is a very progressive guy… We speak pretty frequently."
Feels like Foxborough
The Texans are technically the "home" team at the Greenbrier, but Patriots fans decked in their favorite team's apparel turned out in impressive numbers, making their presence known as well with their vociferous participation before, during, and after practice.
As Patriots players exited the practice fields following Wednesday's session, fans chanted "ED-EL-MAN!" "GRONK-OW-SKI!" and "TB12!" in hopes of luring those superstars – and several other players – over for photo and autograph opportunities.
The New England Patriots visit the Houston Texans for joint practices at the The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
Brady accommodated the crowds on Tuesday, while some of his other teammates gladly did so on both days.
The scene made White Sulphur Springs feel like home to many Patriots.
"Yeah, it's pretty cool to see how many fans are here to support the team," safety Devin McCourty acknowledged. "Probably some locals and even people taking a road trip to support us. Training camp's a great time to have the fans be able to come here and not worry about ticket prices and all of that and just come and show their true support for their team."
Buy: Malcolm Butler – A solid overall training camp manifested itself with the cornerback's strong two days of play against the Texans.
Sell: Defensive ends – Wednesday was tough on New England's already-thin defensive end position, which saw Geneo Grissom, Kony Ealy, and rookie Derek Rivers all leave practice prematurely under the guidance of the team's medical staff.
Play of the Day: In one 11-on-11 team period, QB Tom Brady found WR Chris Hogan streaking across the middle of Houston's defense. Hogan hauled in the missile strike, avoided two tacklers, and headed up the left sideline for a touchdown that brought the crowd to its feet.