FOXBOROUGH — Pliability is key to playing quarterback in the NFL.
Tom Brady has made this point many times, and he made it with his fashion choice Friday afternoon when he sported a black TB12-brand shirt with “pliability” printed across the chest during his news conference.
But pliability isn’t all resistance bands and dynamic stretching. In a high-profile job that’s almost never secure, mental and emotional flexibility are just as necessary.
Brady made that point indirectly, in reference to two other quarterbacks whose situations have changed dramatically recently.
“It’s a great opportunity for Jimmy,” said Brady, speaking of his former backup Jimmy Garoppolo, who is set to make his first start for the 49ers Sunday after the Patriots traded him at the end of October. “We’ve kept in touch and I’ll always wish him the best of luck and I think he’ll do a great job. Niners are lucky to have him.”
Garoppolo is at the beginning of his career, just getting his first chance to start for a team that hopes he’ll be its long-term solution at quarterback. Another passer, Eli Manning, is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but it was still unexpected when the Giants announced that the quarterback who had started 210 consecutive regular-season games for them would be taking a seat in favor of Geno Smith.
“Obviously with Eli, I said the other day, it’s just unfortunate,” Brady said. “The NFL is a tough league and you just have to do your best as a player and keep doing the best you can do, whether it’s for the team you’re on or another team. If you love playing and you can keep doing it at a high level then maybe you can still play.”
Brady is the exception, not the rule, having played his entire career for one NFL team and never having been part of a quarterback controversy since becoming the No. 1 quarterback. At 40, Brady’s job became even more secure with Garoppolo’s departure.
Yet Brady often notes, as he did on his regular Westwood One radio appearance during the “Thursday Night Football” broadcast, “There’s not many happy endings in sports.”
Brady listed Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, and Michael Jordan among athletes he never expected to see change uniforms.
If anything, recent events have made it less likely that Brady will ever join that list. But if he’s one thing, Brady has always made sure to remain flexible.
For the second week in a row, Brady missed Wednesday practice, but he was taken off the injury report Friday.
Like Brady, receiver Danny Amendola also was a full participant in Friday’s shells-and-sweats session and was removed from the injury report.
The Patriots had nearly a full house at practice, with just receiver Chris Hogan and right tackle Marcus Cannon absent. Both were declared out for Sunday’s game against the Bills.
Hogan (shoulder) and Cannon (ankle) were hurt during the Chargers game in Week 8 and haven’t practiced with the team since. Hogan was seen heading to the lower conditioning field Wednesday, indicating that his return to full activities could come soon.
Eight players were limited in practice. Linebacker Trevor Reilly (concussion), offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle (ankle), center David Andrews (illness), linebacker Marquis Flowers (knee), defensive lineman Trey Flowers (rib), cornerback Eric Rowe (groin), special teams captain Matthew Slater (hamstring), and linebacker Kyle Van Noy (calf) are all questionable for Sunday.
Coach Bill Belichick has some love for members of the media once in a while. Maybe it’s limited to former quarterbacks, though.
During his Friday morning press conference, Belichick said he misses the CBS production meetings with Phil Simms, the former Giants quarterback who played while Belichick was on the coaching staff in New York, but that he’s enjoyed working with Simms’s replacement, Tony Romo. The former Cowboys QB and play-by-play man Jim Nantz will call the Patriots-Bills game.
“Phil did a great job, always enjoyed Phil, and even though I never really coached Phil — Phil was the quarterback and I was the defensive coordinator — we talked a lot,” said Belichick. “We had a really good relationship with the Giants.”
Belichick said the two would converse about coverages and schemes, and that Simms would show an interest in all parts of the game, even those that didn’t involve him. It seems Simms had it figured out that the fastest way to Belichick’s heart is through the kicking game.
“I actually involved him in different things,” said Belichick. “Even though Phil throws the ball righthanded, everything else he does in his life is lefthanded, including punt. So we had the great right-footed punters of the Giants, Dave Jennings and Sean Landeta, but when we were going to play against a left-footed punter Phil was my go-to guy there. Things like that, he was always very accommodating and helpful, but he always had an interest in it, too.”
Belichick said that Romo has a similar curiosity for all things football, and he has been impressed with Romo’s knowledge of football history.
“Asks a lot of questions about when I was with the Giants or the ’70s or the ’80s or Tom Landry or so forth,” said Belichick. “He’s pretty knowledgeable for a player that wasn’t in that era, but he knows a lot about it. He’s obviously read and studied it.”
Belichick is just getting to know Romo as an analyst, so they’re not at the point he reached with Simms and Nantz. Belichick liked that familiarity because it meant that Simms and Nantz knew the team well enough to ask more detailed questions, since they didn’t need to clarify what the basic roles were.
“It was like doing the radio show with [Scott] Zolak,” Belichick said.