FOXBOROUGH — If rookie Jacoby Brissett is as good on the field as he is at toeing the company line, Patriots fans have little to worry about should Brissett start Thursday night's game. Brissett would not say after practice Tuesday whether he has been named the starter against the Texans.
"You know, it's the same preparation every week and just going out there and preparing and getting ready for the game," Brissett said.
"No matter what we do, I've just got to be ready to go," he added.
Jimmy Garoppolo, who sprained his AC joint Sunday, practiced on a limited basis, according to the Patriots' injury report. He had not arrived during the portion of the practice that was open to the media.
The Patriots worked out quarterbacks T.J. Yates and Sean Renfree on Tuesday but did not move to sign either, ESPN reported. Even former college quarterback Julian Edelman threw a few passes at practice, although he was just playing catch.
Weighing Garoppolo's health, the cost of bringing in a new quarterback, the ability to prepare Brissett on short notice, and the best way to field a roster capable of beating the Texans sounds complicated, but coach Bill Belichick insisted in his news conference it's actually very simple.
Doesn't he have to wait for a full report on Garoppolo's health to make an informed personnel decision? It's — wait for it — "based on what's in the best interest of the football team," Belichick said.
"A player's personal situation, his health, always comes first, all right? That always comes first. That's not a football decision, that's a medical decision," Belichick said. "Football decisions are based on what's best for the football team. That's what we've always done around here, that's what we'll always do as long as I'm here. That will never change. We'll always do what's best for the football team. That's what it's all driven by."
Belichick confirmed he does not count handling banners — the Tom Brady banner was placed outside Gillette Stadium before Week 1 — parking or concessions among the skills listed on his résumé.
Add performing surgery to the list.
"I'm a football coach. I'm not a doctor," Belichick said. "The medical staff is the medical staff. I coach the team, the medical people handle the injuries. They don't call plays, I don't do surgery. We have a great deal there. It works out good."
"I do what's best for the football team," the coach continued. "Let me put it a different way: I'm the coach, I do what's best for the football team. I don't know why you can't understand that."
Belichick didn't acknowledge if Tuesday's session would decide whether Garoppolo could play or be the backup Thursday. He did say it's possible for a quarterback to be a game-time decision.
"Today's Tuesday. The game's Thursday night," Belichick said.
Garoppolo's injury interrupted a strong start to the season for the third-year backup to Tom Brady. There are few players who can empathize with Garoppolo better than Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler, who was Peyton Manning's backup in Denver but started seven games last season.
"I do know what Jimmy is going through right now. I've been in those shoes, you know, I was in those shoes for 3½ years before I really got my opportunity," Osweiler said via a conference.
Osweiler said he "absolutely" enjoys seeing a quarterback who has been waiting in the wings succeed in a starting role "because I know how difficult it is."
"It's, you know, it's so easy, people say 'Oh, you know, playing backup quarterback, that's the best position in the world.' What they don't understand is, when we leave the building at 5 o'clock on a Wednesday or Thursday when practice wraps up, you still need to go home and study and prepare just like you're the starter and usually you don't get any reps on Sunday but you consistently have to approach it as though you are going to be the starter."
Osweiler also said it was only natural for competition between a backup, such as Garoppolo and an accomplished starter, such as Brady, who is suspended. It was reported last season that Manning didn't go out of his way to help Osweiler in practice or meeting rooms and that Osweiler was frustrated by not starting over a physically deteriorating Manning.
"We all know that the NFL is the best of the best and there's great competition across the board, so any time you're hurt or something like that and another guy gets his opportunity, he's going to try to make the most of it," Osweiler said.
The muddled tea leaves in Foxborough put Bill O'Brien and the Texans in a pickle. O'Brien said on a conference call it's "definitely tough" to prepare for a team without knowing who the starting quarterback will be.
"We're preparing for their offense if that makes sense, not really knowing who will be the quarterback. There's not much we can do about that. We just need to prepare for the plays that we're seeing on tape, for maybe some other things that we think may happen in the game. We've got to be ready for that," O'Brien said.
O'Brien was impressed with Garoppolo's performance against Arizona and Miami and said it appeared he had the playbook down and then some, noting the Patriots made use of Garoppolo's skills as a runner.
O'Brien thought Brissett looked good, too, but said the Texans were mostly consulting their pre-draft evaluations and North Carolina State film (where Brissett played in college) to scout the rookie.
"When he went in there [Sunday], I thought he played well," O'Brien said. "He got them into the right play, when he was in the passing game he took care of the ball petty well. They ran the ball pretty well, I think that's the big key."
And Brady, suddenly excluded from his own team's hullabaloo at his position?
"I'm sure he's chomping at the bit to get back in there," O'Brien said. "I'm sure, he's probably one of the most competitive guys I've been around and like I said he wants to be there for his team and so I'm sure it's something that he just can't wait to get back I'm sure."
No matter how badly he wants it, Brady's not walking through that door Thursday night. At this point, that's about all that's for certain.