FOXBOROUGH — He might be The Future for the Patriots at quarterback, but Jimmy Garoppolo’s present is a little bit rocky.
The second-round pick was intercepted three times on Saturday, by Tavon Wilson, Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler, and also had to run a lap when he fumbled a snap from rookie center Bryan Stork.
As he jogged past the thousands of fans packed into the bleachers along the practice field, Garoppolo heard cheers, the faithful apparently happy to be so close to a Patriots player, regardless of why he was running by them.
After practice, Garoppolo chalked his punitive jog to “part of being a rookie,” though coach Bill Belichick makes all players who make such mental mistakes in training camp run a lap.
He wasn’t the only quarterback who had a rough morning, as Tom Brady was picked off twice during the session, both by Darrelle Revis, and Ryan Mallett was also intercepted twice.
What we are still learning, however, is whether Garoppolo will grow from his mistakes, analyzing them, learning what to do different in future instances, then moving on.
“It’s difficult at times [shaking off bad plays]; it’s part of being a rookie really, you don’t want to make a mental error twice, you don’t want to make a physical error twice, that’s part of the NFL,” Garoppolo said.
After Thursday’s first camp practice, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels praised Garoppolo’s work ethic, but acknowledged that ups and downs are part of bringing along a young player.
“Jimmy is a rookie. He works extremely hard,” McDaniels said. “Great mind-set and approach to trying to learn and get better every day. He’s got a long way to go. He’s going to make a lot of mistakes between now and the end of training camp to learn from. He approaches his job with a good attitude and gets better at something every day.”
Brady is not ready to cede his job, and he’s not headed to the bench this season. The real battle might be between Garoppolo and Mallett for the No. 2 spot. A third-round pick in 2011, Mallett is entering the final season of his rookie contract and did not take a single snap under center last season, in large part because New England found itself in a lot of close games.
Garoppolo has been running the scout team, with Brady and Mallett working with the starters and top reserves. The last time the Patriots kept three quarterbacks on the roster was in 2011, Mallett’s rookie year, when Brian Hoyer was the primary backup.
McDaniels said Garoppolo has been no different than his older teammates when it comes to his approach to each day.
“It’s exciting to have three guys in the same room that are at different stages of their development in their career but they all approach learning the same way: excited to get into the meeting room, what can I do better, what did I do that I can fix tomorrow,” McDaniels said. “And Jimmy is no different. Ryan and Tom really take the lead in that and obviously the two younger guys have a great guy to learn from.”
Brady and Mallett were both in his spot once, Garoppolo noted.
“Ryan and Tom both, they both went through it, so they’ve been helping me in that way, giving me little bits of advice here and there, and I’m very thankful of that,” Garoppolo said.
Watching Brady has taught Garoppolo to stay focused.
“The next-play mentality — you can’t worry about the past, you’ve got to move on and every play is just as important as the last play,” Garoppolo said. “You’ve got to just move on.”
Coming from Eastern Illinois, Garoppolo is trying to make the leap from the Football Championship Subdivision (the old Division 1-AA) to the NFL. It can be done, of course — the Cowboys’ Tony Romo (who also played at Eastern Illinois), the Ravens’ Joe Flacco (Delaware), and the late Steve McNair (Alcorn State) played at FCS schools and had NFL success.
Garoppolo noted that the game is faster now, and he has to adjust — “all great athletes do that,” he said — and the size of the crowds are a bit different as well.
“It’s awesome,” Garoppolo said. “Coming from Eastern, we didn’t have the biggest crowds by any means, and at practice, we didn’t have crowds [the Patriots had nearly 14,000 fans attended practice Saturday].
“You approach it the same way whether you’re out there or not; game day there’s going to be a lot more people than that. You gotta come out here and do better each and every day.”