FOXBOROUGH — The battle is brewing, and Brian Hoyer enjoys being in the bubbling cauldron that is the Patriots quarterback competition.
Hoyer is one of three candidates vying to become the first starting quarterback of the post-Tom Brady era, and he’s not only competing for the job, he’s serving as a mentor and sounding board for his brothers in the arms race.
When Brady announced in March that he wasn’t returning to New England, many anointed Jarrett Stidham the Patriots starter. It happened again when Cam Newton inked a deal with the Patriots last month.
It would have been easy for Hoyer to resent the story lines and signings. Instead, the 12-year veteran and consummate professional embraced the competition — and the camaraderie.
“Look, we’re trying to all be the best for the team and also do what’s best for the team,” Hoyer said following Thursday’s practice. “So, for me, obviously with Jarrett and Cam and even Brian Lewerke, just try to use the knowledge that I’ve accumulated over the years of playing in this offense and help those guys out when they need it.”
Hoyer, who acknowledges there really was no QB competition during his first two stints in New England when he backed up Brady, has been in plenty of job battles throughout his career, which includes stops in seven other NFL outposts. He thinks the head-to-head work brings out the best in all involved.
“I think that the beautiful thing is, look, we’re all different,” he said. “We all bring different things to the table and we can appreciate those things about each other and get to know each other well and help each other and push each other. I think that’s a great thing.
“Look, we’re not all in there not talking to each other. We’re all learning from each other. We’re watching when one person goes and learning from their rep and vice versa.
“And it’s been awesome. It’s been great to get to know Cam, obviously knowing Jarrett from last year and obviously my other fellow [Michigan State] Spartan [Lewerke], getting him under my wing and just trying to help him out along with the other guys.”
Hoyer has been solid and steady throughout camp (unofficially, he’s 30 of 53 with an interception) but don’t think for a second he’s concentrating on statistics in August. He knows the summer can be full of mistakes and camp is the time to correct them and learn from them.
“Obviously don’t want to go out and make a ton of mistakes,” he said, “but sometimes the best learning device is to make a mistake or make a throw a certain way and come back in and talk it over and learn from it and then move on and do it better the next day.”
As for a quarterback platoon, something Bill Belichick said he might be open to, Hoyer has experience with that, too, as he once split snaps with Johnny Manziel in Cleveland.
“We’re constantly rotating through at quarterback [in practice], so it kind of prepares you to go in, find out what the situation is, and execute the play the best you can in that situation,” he said.
“If I’m playing in a game and I get taken out on second down and come back in on third down, I’ve just got to go execute in that situation regardless of what happened before that.”
Matthew Slater is the senior statesman in the Patriots locker room and one of the greatest gunners in league history. The 13-year veteran is an eight-time Pro Bowler and spends most of every practice away from his teammates, working on his technique in a never-ending quest to be better. This season, he’s been learning from two other special teams standouts. “I do think there are things that I can be taught to do better,” he said. “I look at players like Justin Bethel or Cody Davis, and then having a chance to work with them hand-in-hand, there are things that they do as a part of their game that I don’t do as well and I think that I can try to incorporate those things. The saying goes, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’ This old dog is still trying to learn new tricks. I embrace that challenge.” … Punter Jake Bailey on the COVID restrictions and protocols in the NFL, including social distancing: “I already have to stand 15 yards from the snapper, so it’s built into the position.”