The Patriots have two games this week.
There's the preseason finale against the New York Giants on Thursday night. And then there's the more important one: the waiting game.
At some point between now and Friday, Judge Richard Berman is expected to rule on whether or not to uphold the NFL's four-game suspension of QB Tom Brady. For the countless observers anxious to find out Berman's decision, each second that passes seems interminably long and painful.
Except for Brady's teammates, or so they claim.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP has yet to speak to the media since training camp opened in late July, while his case has been making its way through appeals. But Brady's understudy and New England's potential Week 1 starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, is getting more and more accustomed to the weekly Q&A sessions with reporters.
"We're going about our business as usual, just getting ready for the next game against the Giants, taking it day by day," Garoppolo maintained.
With the regular season opener now just nine days away and Brady's immediate future still uncertain, second-year man Garoppolo wouldn't take the bait when asked if he was ready to start against Pittsburgh.
"We'll approach that when we get there. We've got a little ways to go still, so next Thursday we'll figure it out. You've got to come into this, whether you're a starter, backup, you've got to have the starter mentality. You never know when your number is going to get called. Whatever it may be, I'm preparing like the starter and I've got to be ready for Week 1."
With less time than normal to prepare for the opener, head coach Bill Belichick admitted once again today that his team has already begun looking ahead to prepare for the Steelers game. The short week, coupled with the situation surrounding Brady, makes it necessary to get a head-start on preparations for Pittsburgh. The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots say they can't afford to let Brady's legal battle with the NFL disrupt their focus as individuals or as a team.
"No, it's not a distraction," said backup center and interior o-lineman Josh Kline. "We just have to worry about what we need to do here. It's something between Tom and the NFL. We're just worried about our jobs here."
"I haven't let any of that affect me or any of us," left tackle Nate Solder remarked with a chuckle. "I'm not even sure what you're talking about because I'm here studying my playbook."
"Just focus on your job. When you come to work," wide receiver Danny Amendola observed, "you're expected to be professional. Everybody here has a job to do."
"We're here so long every day. I honestly don't really get a chance to watch any TV or anything, so that definitely helps," added Garoppolo. "I don't know. It's kind of just a mentality thing. You've just got to go about your business as you always do. You can't control it anyways, so why worry about it?"
It's understandable that most players are focused on themselves this week, with first cuts due by 4 p.m. today and final cuts due Saturday afternoon. Many Patriots are wondering whether they'll even be part of the title defense next week when the Steelers come to town.
One of those is third-string QB Ryan Lindley. Whether Brady is suspended or not, Lindley could make the 53-man roster, but it's far from a guarantee. In recent seasons, the Patriots have kept just two quarterbacks, Brady and a backup. The four-year veteran looked calm as could be Tuesday, however, when asked about how stressful this week is for him.
"No, you know what, I've been through that a few times now. It's the nature of the business. It was tough to see yesterday, a couple buddies from other teams going. I'm giving them a call, see how they're doing. But it's a part of what we've signed up for. You put your best foot forward and hopefully someone takes an interest and you go from there."
Lindley was brought in after training camp started, to replace injured Matt Flynn. He has yet to see action this preseason, his only reps as a Patriot having come in practice thus far. But Lindley, who started a playoff game last season for Arizona, is anxious to compete this Thursday against New York, if for no other reason than to get some current game tape of himself in the event New England lets him go and another club is interested in him.
"I've been champing at the bit. You have to wait for your number to be called. It's not Little League. Everybody's not going to get in there for a couple of innings. I'll be ready when my number's called and be ready to roll Thursday.
"You don't want to press," added Lindley. "My life philosophy is, I control what I can. I'm going to put my best foot forward, give 100 percent, try to help my teammates out. The chips are going to fall where they will after that."
The Boston Herald, citing an unnamed source, reported Tuesday that fullback James Develin will be placed on season-ending injured reserve. There had been hope that Develin, who broke his right leg last week at Carolina, might be a candidate for short-term IR. Apparently, that is no longer the case.
Meanwhile, New England's roster swelled by one player Tuesday. Another media report from ESPN revealed that New England traded with the Saints for wide receiver/returner Jalen Saunders. The Patriots have struggled to keep guys healthy at that position this summer, and got a good look at Saunders during joint practices with New Orleans last month.
Develin was among eight Patriots who did not dress for practice Tuesday. The others included WR Brandon LaFell, who remains on PUP, rookie CB Darryl Roberts (wrist), LB Dane Fletcher, OL Chris Barker, C Bryan Stork, DL Chris Jones, and OL Marcus Cannon, who made a brief comeback yesterday.
Fletcher was taking part in the running and stretching portion of Tuesday's full-pads workout, although he did so only in shorts and a t-shirt. The Boston Herald reported afterward (again citing unnamed sources) that Stork, who is believed to have suffered a concussion this summer, has been cleared to play again and is expected to start against Pittsburgh next week.