The Patriots went back to practice Wednesday for the first time since dealing backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco two days ago. As of today, veteran Brian Hoyer is once again New England's No. 2 quarterback – both on the depth chart and the numerical roster.
The 32-year-old Hoyer inked what media reports indicate is a 3-year pact to return to the team that gave him his first NFL opportunity back in 2009. At that time, the then-rookie out of Michigan State beat out two other passers to earn the job of lone backup to Tom Brady. He held that title until 2011, when rookie Ryan Mallett was drafted and served as the team's third-string QB. After his release the following summer, Hoyer has bounced around the NFL with six different clubs since 2012.
He took the field once again with Brady and most of the rest of the Patriots Wednesday, but was not expected to make any public comments until sometime next week. His primary obligation to the team, at this stage, is to reacclimatize to the Patriots' system and playbook. Thankfully for him and the team, he has some extra time, as New England is enjoying a bye this weekend.
"Brian's a smart guy. He's got, obviously, some years in our system and our terminology, so, it will be kind of a cram session here," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels remarked before today's workout, "but I don't expect that to take forever because Brian's an intelligent guy that had plenty of exposure to what we do, and I know he'll work hard. Hopefully we'll catch him up really quickly."
New England's offense has been relatively stable, from a playbook perspective, for the better part of the last two decades, as McDaniels noted, which should help Hoyer with his recall of information.
"There's certainly things that have changed since he was here, I'm sure," McDaniels allowed, "but I would say that it's just like learning a new language. Generally, they're not going to change the language entirely. You know, you might have to learn a new word here or there or something like that, which I'm sure Brian will be able to do quickly. But, the foundation of our system and what we use and what we've done since he left has not really been that different."
Like McDaniels, Hoyer is an Ohio native with a love of football and a diligent work ethic, which is one reason why the OC says he's looking forward to working with him again. At the same time, McDaniels admits to retaining a fondness for Garoppolo.
"Every player wants to play. I understand that, and that's a good thing. They should want to play. They work hard to try to earn their opportunities, and when they get them, they've got to make the most of them. [Garoppolo] had a few opportunities here and he did a good job with them, which is why he's earned the opportunity that he's had now.
"I wish him nothing but the best. I really, really think a lot of this guy," McDaniels emphasized. "He's got a bright future, he's a great person, and I hope he does well for himself out there [in San Francisco]."
Only a handful of Patriots did not join their teammates for New England's only practice of the bye week. All were expected to miss time, as they're dealing with various injuries: wide receiver Chris Hogan (right shoulder), linebacker Dont'a Hightower (pectoral), right tackle Marcus Cannon (left ankle), and defensive tackle Malcom Brown.
Both Hogan and Cannon couldn't finish the Charger game because of their ailments, and Brown missed the Chargers game entirely after suffering an ankle injury a week earlier against Atlanta. Hightower, of course, had surgery last week and is likely done for the remainder of the season.
On a positive note, cornerback Eric Rowe began practicing again after missing most of the last month with a groin injury.
The team will now be off until Monday of next week, when they'll return to prepare in earnest for the second half of their season, which resumes with road trips against the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders (the latter in Mexico City). Players like co-captain Matthew Slater say this mid-season bye week is coming at an opportune time for players to rest both their bodies and minds.
"Absolutley, I believe so," added wide receiver Brandin Cooks. "I'll probably just stick around and enjoy Boston a little bit. That's my plan."