FOXBOROUGH - There was no news yesterday on the prospect of Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien moving to a new job, though Bill Belichick was asked about the 42-year-old assistant, who has been on his staff for five seasons, and whether he, like other former Belichick assistants, has what it takes to be a good head coach.
“He’s done a great job for us since he’s come here,’’ Belichick said. “I really can’t speak to him in any other position.
“Right now, our focus is just on getting our team prepared for the bye week here and trying to improve the most that we can and trying to get ready for next week’s opponent, whoever that is.’’
O’Brien has been mentioned as a top candidate to take over at Penn State, where legendary coach Joe Paterno was forced out by a child molestation scandal involving his former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky.
While the Penn State job may be unappealing to many, O’Brien might have the mind-set to tackle the job for just that reason - the chance to succeed at a job others turned down.
The Jaguars, who fired Jack Del Rio in November, have requested permission to speak with O’Brien about their opening. Jacksonville seems to have its sights set on an offensive-minded coach, as it also will also talk to offensive coordinators Brian Schottenheimer of the Jets and Mike Mularkey of the Falcons.
“Bill does a good job,’’ said Belichick. “He works hard, he’s smart, he’s got a lot of experience. He’s done different things here in terms of working with the receivers, working with the quarterbacks. I think he’s got a good understanding of what our system is, what our players can do, and he’s put them in good position to do it.’’
O’Brien became the Patriots’ quarterbacks coach in 2009 and also began calling offensive plays that season, though he didn’t officially receive the title of coordinator until after the 2010 season.
A time to heal
The Patriots are expected to hold on-field practices today, tomorrow, and likely Friday. Belichick indicated that different players may have different workloads, which will likely be tied to their health. Those who are still healing from the aches and pains of the season - and with nearly 20 players on last Friday’s injury report, that’s a number of guys - will do less on-field work.
While the bye week is nice, veteran Brian Waters, who was the only offensive lineman to start all 16 games at the same spot, said his advice to younger players will be to simply keep doing what they’ve done all season long - there’s nothing they can do this week that will make them feel as though they’ve had a couple of months off.
“The routine is what saves you, it’s what lets you know that you’re prepared,’’ Waters said. “If you fall off the routine, you’ll always find yourself feeling like you’ve left something out. It’s like packing at the last minute: You always feel like there’s something you forgot.
“If you’re preparing through the course of this week and all of next week, I think you’ll feel really prepared going into the game.’’
The Patriots defensive players who played the most snaps this year? According to ProFootballFocus.com, Kyle Arrington was tops with 992, followed by Vince Wilfork (978), Devin McCourty (924 in 14 games), Rob Ninkovich (913), and Jerod Mayo (910 in 14 games). The Patriots played 1,104 total defensive snaps . . . Special teams captain and Pro Bowler Matthew Slater finished the season with a team-high 17 special teams tackles. Tracy White, who missed the finale with an abdomen injury, was second with 14. Niko Koutouvides, despite being signed Nov. 9, was third on the Patriots with nine.Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.