Anyone who covers the Patriots learns quickly not to speak in absolutes, as Bill Belichick keeps his plans closely guarded. Unless you hear something directly from Belichick’s mouth, you better qualify any report with the acknowledgment that plans can and often will change right up until the last minute.
So we kept that in mind as we spoke with a good league source on Thursday morning who is close to the Patriots’ quarterback room. According to our source:
■ Jacoby Brissett is preparing to start his first NFL game Thursday night against the Texans.
■ Jimmy Garoppolo, who was listed as doubtful on the injury report, is still in a tremendous amount of pain after spraining the AC joint in his right shoulder on Sunday. Garoppolo still has trouble lifting his arm, and has been saying all week that he’s too sore to play tonight. The Patriots want Garoppolo to try to push through the pain.
■ Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been telling teammates all week that he plans to make his 2016 season debut tonight.
Gronkowski’s debut seems likely, but we still can’t speak definitively about the quarterback situation. Garoppolo’s shoulder might improve enough on Thursday to where he decides to shoot himself up with painkillers and play through the pain. Brissett has been preparing to play, but the coaches can always make a last-minute switch, like they did with Tom Brady and Garoppolo before the second preseason game this year.
But there is one thing about the quarterback situation we can say definitely this morning – Julian Edelman should not be the backup quarterback. No way, no how.
An injured Garoppolo at 50 percent health is a far better backup option. So is second-year tight end AJ Derby, who was a quarterback at the University of Arkansas.
Edelman is too important to the team, and has too much of an injury history, to put him at risk.
He’s the top offensive weapon on the team not named Gronkowski. The Patriots’ offense grinded to a halt last year when Edelman broke his foot in the ninth game and missed the rest of the regular season. Considering his injury history and how many hits he takes, the Patriots would be crazy to use Edelman as a wildcat quarterback and subject him to big hits on play after play.
This is only Week 3, and the Patriots are 2-0, playing with house money. They don’t need to win this game at all costs. If Brissett gets hurt tonight, they’re much better off bringing in Garoppolo or Derby to hand the ball off and run out the clock than using Edelman as any kind of wildcat weapon. Just take the loss and get ready for the Buffalo game in 10 days, when Garoppolo’s shoulder should be healthy enough to play.
The “doubtful” designation certainly suggests that Garoppolo won’t dress tonight. There’s also the thought that by listing Garoppolo as doubtful, the Patriots are protecting him from criticism from fans who would be upset that Garoppolo was healthy enough to dress but not enough to play.
With 12 hours to go until kickoff, there is still plenty up in the air for the Patriots and their quarterback situation.
But what’s clear is that Edelman should not be the backup tonight. It’s a risk the Patriots simply don’t need to take.
Follow Ben Volin on Twitter at @BenVolin.