FOXBOROUGH — Something very typical of NFL training camp happened Monday after the Patriots’ joint practice with the Bears when a quarterback — in this case Jimmy Garoppolo — was asked about the development of his backup — in this case third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Of course, this being the Patriots’ bizarro-world in which a quarterback other than Tom Brady is actually going to start meaningful games added an atypical element to the scene, but Garoppolo played the part of seasoned veteran well.
“Oh, man, he’s a good young player,” Garoppolo said.
Then he paused, chuckling to himself.
“He’s only a year younger than me. Why am I saying he’s a young player?” Garoppolo thought out loud.
The answer may be that, though the 24-year-old Garoppolo is only about to begin his third season in the NFL, the events of the past year have pressed the fast-forward button on his career. Because of Brady’s four-game suspension, Garoppolo has stepped into the spotlight ahead of schedule.
“You’ve just got to take it in stride, really,” Garoppolo said. “It’s an opportunity and I’m excited about it. It’s a privilege to be in the situation I’m in and you’ve just got to go take advantage of it.”
Garoppolo had a sharp day against the Bears, completing 13 of 18 passes during drills.
Just as Garoppolo was asked to evaluate Brissett, Brady has been asked to share his evaluation of Garoppolo. On Sunday, the suspended starter offered a glowing review.
“He works his tail off to prepare, and I know he has the respect of everybody,” Brady said. “I think that’s what you always do — you try to come out here and earn the respect of your teammates and your coaches, and you’ve got to put the work in. You’ve got to show that you’re willing to show up every day and do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Brady and Garoppolo’s relationship has generated gossip throughout training camp. After Monday’s practice, however, the two were chummy enough to do extra conditioning work together on a separate field by themselves. Every few minutes they would stop to talk, sometimes at length.
Garoppolo said he felt honored to hear Brady speak highly of him.
“Tom is a guy who I look up to and I’ve learned a lot from him, you know, it’s always a privilege to hear something like that from a guy that you respect like that,” Garoppolo said.
One of the only people it could be more important for Garoppolo to hear from than Brady is Bill Belichick. Good news for Garoppolo, Belichick said he agreed with Brady’s assessment of Garoppolo’s work ethic and command of the locker room.
“I think Jimmy’s got a good presence for the position. I think he always has,” Belichick said Monday afternoon as the Patriots prepared to practice against the Bears. “Every player develops throughout the course of their career as they gain experience. That’s no different for him or anybody else. But I think his demeanor’s good.”
Belichick said that Garoppolo had the respect of the rest of the team from Day 1, but even Garoppolo admitted he’s thankful that his unexpected workload increase came this year instead of in his rookie season.
“Rookie year it would have been a little difficult, I’m not going to lie to you, everything was so new that it’s tough as a rookie to do anything,” Garoppolo said.
Garoppolo said that he’s relied on veteran players, family, and friends to deal with the added pressure and scrutiny off the field. During practice or in a game, Garoppolo said, he relies on his ability to stay calm.
“Being a quarterback you can’t be too high, can’t be too low,” he said. “You kind of just have to be even keel throughout the whole thing, and I mean it’s football, good things are going to happen, bad things are going to happen. You try and minimize the bad things, but when they do happen you have to react well to them and your teammates are always watching you and you want to react the right way.”