FOXBOROUGH — His voice sounded a bit raspy. No doubt it was from the added strain of shouting out all those checks, audibles, and hard counts from the extra work he got during Patriots practice Wednesday.
That’s when Ryan Mallett took an unexpected turn in the spotlight.
The third-year backup to Tom Brady began the week imitating Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning on New England’s scout squad offense, throwing out some “Omahas’’ just to keep the defense honest. “Yeah, a few Omahas,’’ Mallett said, referring to Manning’s penchant for barking out the command before offensive plays.
It, perhaps, explained Mallett’s rasp.
“Yeah, right,’’ Mallett said. “Peyton does a lot of different stuff and we try to do our best to emulate that.’’
When Brady showed up for work sick Wednesday and was sent home to rest, Mallett suddenly went from understudy to a leading role, taking all the repetitions with the first-team offense, which added to his workload.
“I was just out there trying to do my job,’’ said Mallett, whose career totals amount to one completion out of four attempts for 17 yards. “It was fun. It’s a lot of fun.’’
Order was restored with Brady’s full participation in Thursday’s practice as the Patriots prepared for Sunday’s AFC Championship game against the Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
“You never know when you’re going to get your opportunity,’’ Brady said. “I think there was an AFC Championship game that I didn’t get to finish in 2001 and Drew [Bledsoe] came in in the second half and threw a touchdown pass and led us to that win [at Pittsburgh] in order to get us to the Super Bowl.
“Everyone has to be prepared. You never know when your number is going to be called.’’
Mallett went back to his primary function as Manning’s impersonator on the scout squad.
“Of course, he’s not Peyton Manning so he’s not going to be able to — word for word — do what Peyton Manning does or says [at the line of scrimmage],’’ cornerback Aqib Talib said of Mallett. “But he’s come out and done a good job giving us a good look.’’
When it comes to simulating Manning’s mannerisms at the line of scrimmage, Mallett said he relished trying to replicate it for the Patriots’ defense, even enjoying a game of cat and mouse in trying to draw them offsides.
“Definitely,’’ he said. “I’m always trying to keep them honest. I’m not Peyton, but I try to keep them on their toes and not let them get lulled to sleep over there.’’
Safety Steve Gregory said Mallett makes practice an ongoing competition.
“That’s a battle all year long,’’ Gregory said. “Ryan’s always trying to compete and trying to beat us as a defense when he’s playing the opposing quarterback. So he does a great job with it.
“He’s really mimicked those guys to the best of his abilities. He’s got a strong arm and he can make all the throws, so he gives us some trouble out there.’’
Asked what he tried to do best when simulating Manning, Mallett replied, “All the little things.’’
“All the things you see him do on film, the checks he might make when he sees a certain coverage, I try to get as close as possible to what I would think he would do,’’ Mallett said. “I’ve tried everything.’’
Given the magnitude of the game — and the opposing QB — Mallett said he left nothing to chance from the hard counts to the sight adjustments, even to the barking of “Omaha!’’ during his pre-snap reads.
“I’ve tried everything,’’ Mallett said. “It’s the AFC Championship game. No stone unturned.’’
“He’s doing a good job of trying to give us that simulation as best he can,’’ Gregory said. “He’s been doing it and he’ll continue to do it and he’ll try to give us the most accurate look that he possibly can of what we’re going to see on Sunday.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.