After sustaining an injury to his right hand – the one he throws with – a day earlier, a fully suited-up Tom Brady showed up at Patriots practice Thursday, stretched with his teammates, and apparently did nothing but spectate thereafter. New England's injury report for the day indicated that he did not participate at all.
During the 10-minute window for media viewing of practice, TB12 wore bright red gloves on both hands in an apparent effort to keep prying eyes and recording devices from gaining any further insight about his ailment.
Later in the Patriots locker room, the only other QB on the Patriots roster was besieged by reporters. Brian Hoyer declared not only that Brady looked great on the field today, but that he's doing everything he can to be ready if Brady can't perform on Sunday versus Jacksonville.
"If I don't play, then it's good for our team. If I do, then I'm ready to go," the 32-year-old promised.
"Look, I prepare every week like I'm going to play. Whether I do or I don't, that's not really up to me. One thing I can benefit from is, since I was the backup here last time, I've played a lot of football. I've been the starter on three different teams. I know how to prepare as the starter."
The Patriots gave Hoyer his entrée to the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 2009, when, like today, he won the job as Brady's one and only understudy. Hoyer held that No. 2 post for three seasons before New England let him go. Since then, he's rarely been unemployed, with stints in Pittsburgh and Arizona (2012), his hometown Cleveland (2013-14), Houston (2015), Chicago (2016), and, until Halloween a few months ago, San Francisco. That, of course, was when the Patriots dealt Jimmy Garoppolo to the Niners, who subsequently released Hoyer, giving him the chance to return to Foxborough.
Hoyer explained that, in practice nowadays, whether he's running the scout team, taking first-team reps, or just watching, he's using the opportunities to prepare himself as if he were going to start and play a full game. He tries to imagine how he'd identify the middle linebacker to help his o-line with their blocking calls, make any pre-snap reads and audibles, and decide where he'd throw the football.
"Whether I'm getting the reps or not, I'm preparing to play," he continued, "because the reality is you never know when you're name is going to be called. If anything, having been the backup, having been the starter, now being the backup role, I know how to prepare.
"Since I've been here, there's been days where I've taken a lot of reps; there's been days where I haven't taken any. I just do what's asked of me. However many reps that is, whether it's scout team or a few plays on offense, it's whatever they tell me to do.
"Everybody is doing what got us here. For me, that's only been half of a season, but I fell back in line pretty quick on how to prepare for any scenario, any situation, never leave any stone unturned. That's what I appreciate about this place: You're going to be prepared when you go into that game on Sunday. The coaches make sure of it. The players make sure of it of each other. We hold each other accountable."
While Hoyer was a popular draw for the media Thursday, several of his teammates also attracted attention as reporters tried their best to get any details about Brady's health status or what caused the injury in the first place.
"Tom always looks good. He's handsome. He's good at football," linebacker Kyle Van Noy smirked. "That [injury]'s his thing. All I'm going to do is control what I can control, and that's play on the defense."
"You've got to ask him," advised defensive end Trey Flowers with a chuckle. "I'm on the defensive side of the ball. I'm definitely not a hand doctor. Far from it."
"I'm not a doctor or anything like that," center/co-captain David Andrews bristled. "I am just focused on what I have to do to get ready this week. I'm not out there judging how he looks. I have a pretty tall task ahead of me trying to block this Jacksonville front... Ask him how he felt."
Some media reports have suggested that Brady suffered an accidental collision with a teammate during a handoff on Wednesday. When asked directly if that teammate was him, running back James White replied with a laugh, "The world may never know."
Brady, incidentally, was scheduled to speak to reporters on Thursday, but that meeting was postponed until Friday.