FOXBOROUGH — Faced with the possibility of being without Tom Brady for as many as four games because of suspension, the Patriots Thursday shuffled backup quarterbacks, reportedly adding veteran Matt Flynn to the mix.
The Patriots released Garrett Gilbert, who spent the final weeks of last season and the playoffs on the practice squad. The former Texas and Southern Methodist signal-caller was a sixth-round pick of the Rams in 2014.
Flynn, who will turn 30 this month, was a seventh-round pick by the Packers in 2008, and made his first career start in New England Dec. 19, 2010, when Aaron Rodgers sat out with a concussion.
Flynn was quite good that night, completing 24 of 37 passes for 251 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, though the Patriots won, 31-27.
The former LSU standout has also spent time with the Seahawks, Bills, and Raiders, though 46 of his 53 career appearances and six of his seven starts have come in a Packers uniform.
Flynn, listed at 6 feet 2 inches, 228 pounds, has completed 219 of 357 career passes (61.3 percent) for 2,541 yards with 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
With Jimmy Garoppolo the likely starter if Brady is forced to sit, the Patriots wanted a more experienced quarterback to back him up.
They all look good
Running backs coach Ivan Fears, whose time in New England is at 19 years (1991-92 and 1999-present), had the line of the day.
After being asked to evaluate the progress of several players and saying both he and the media will have a better idea come training camp and the preseason games, Fears reached his limit when asked about Tyler Gaffney, who spent all of last year on injured reserve.
“Very capable. Very capable. Tyler will tell you the story come August and that’s where we’re going to leave it,” Fears began before switching gears. “Hey, I ain’t talking about anybody in shorts and T-shirts. Not in my game. Let’s keep that straight. There’s too much everybody wants to put on a guy running around in shorts and T-shirts.
“If they don’t look good in shorts and T-shirts, we got a problem. We’ve got a real problem. Let’s wait till [stuff] starts happening; let’s see what happens later on, when there’s a guy on the other side doing something against him.”
Fears chuckled and drew laughs from reporters, but his point was taken: It’s easy to praise a player at this time of year, when there isn’t a linebacker coming at him full speed or a decision to make on which defender to pick up in pass protection.
Which is why Fears’s answer on second-year back James White, a fourth-round draft pick in 2014 who was a healthy scratch for much of the season, sounded a lot like his answer on Gaffney:
“He’s doing exactly what he has to do. He looks really good, but like I’m saying to everybody else, when we get going and . . . the real bullets are flying, we’ll see who’s going to be doing what. By what they do on the field, you will know and I will know. There will be no secret to it; they’ve got to do it on the field.”
Pumping him up
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has seen no difference in Brady’s approach despite the Deflategate scandal and subsequent four-game suspension.
“He’s the same Tom Brady I’ve always had a chance to coach,” McDaniels said. “At this time of year, he’s working extremely hard, he’s got a great attitude. He’s had a very good spring, a very positive influence on our offense and our team, and he’s doing everything he can any day to get better.”
Brady’s appeal with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is set to be heard June 23.
Ridley weighs in
Former Patriot Stevan Ridley, now with the Jets, had some interesting comments regarding Deflategate on Thursday.
“At the end of the day, the Super Bowl champs are the Super Bowl champs,” Ridley told Newsday. “Footballs deflated or not, it took a lot of hard work to get there. I’m not saying they’re right, I’m not saying they’re wrong. But what I am saying is you can’t take away that they got that title.
“That whole Deflategate deal, I put that on the Patriots. I’m going to let them deal with that. Bill [Belichick] does a good job of making all that go away. So what they’ve got to do is just focus and play ball.”
Ridley, who missed the run to the Super Bowl after tearing an ACL in October, also said, “They gave me my first shot in the NFL, so I’m not going to bad-mouth anybody, I’m not going to say anything that I don’t know firsthand. And I’m going to let them deal with their own issues.
“Everybody has their flaws — me, you, everybody included. They made a mistake. The best thing that can happen is that they deal with that on their own. That has nothing to do with the New York Jets, and this is where I am now.”
Ridley, who signed a one-year deal with the Jets, has not yet been cleared to practice fully.
Morris on hand
Former Patriots running back Sammy Morris, who has spent the last couple of years as an assistant at Attleboro High, was working with Fears and the rest of the backs Thursday . . . Patriots players and staff will receive their Super Bowl championship rings Sunday night during a ceremony at owner Robert Kraft’s Brookline home . . . In addition to waiving Gilbert, New England also cut ties with tight end Tim Wright and wide receiver Zach D’Orazio and signed three rookie free agents: linebacker D.J. Lynch (Bowling Green), and tight ends Jimmay Mundine (Kansas) and Logan Stokes (Louisiana State).
Follow Shalise Manza Young on Twitter at @shalisemyoung.