Posted on January 19, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
As we get closer to Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, uncertainty lingers in the air around Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Brady is dealing with a mysterious hand injury that has prevented him from being a full participant in practice this week. Sources on the ground in New England say Brady “should be OK” to play on Sunday. But if not, backup Brian Hoyer says he’s prepared to face the Jacksonville Jaguars just in case.
“I prepare every week like I’m going to play. Whether I do or I don’t, that’s not really up to me,” Hoyer said Thursday. “I think the one thing that I can benefit from is since I was here as the backup last time (from 2009 to 2011), I’ve played a lot of football. So I’ve been the starter on (four) different teams. I know how to prepare as the starter.”
Of course, Hoyer has only been with the Patriots since early November. He returned to New England after the Pats traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers. Hoyer, meanwhile, began the season as San Francisco’s starting quarterback. He admits that he’s still trying to learn the playbook and feel comfortable in the offense. But he says his time backing up Brady earlier in his career has made things easier.
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“I’m always trying to get that down. It’s a week-to-week basis,” explains Hoyer. “I think the one good thing for me coming back in the middle of the season, I had a base knowledge of the system and have just tried to pick up every week after that. What we run this week may be totally different from what we ran last week. It’s kind of a week-to-week basis. Like I said, having been a starting quarterback before, I think I have a good idea on how to prepare, whether I get the reps or not.”
From Hoyer’s perspective, it’s been a good thing that Brady hasn’t been able to participate in practice this week. Brady not throwing during practice means Hoyer is able to get all of the reps, as opposed to only getting mental reps.
“Whether I’m getting those reps or not, each rep I’m not getting I’m taking as a mental rep,” says Hoyer. “So whether I’m getting the reps or not, I’m always preparing to play, because the truth of reality is you never know when your name is going to be called. If I don’t play, it’s good for our team. If I do, then I’m ready to go.”
If nothing else, Hoyer appears to be ready and confident if he’s called upon Sunday. The Patriots should also feel good about having an experienced veteran backup up Brady. Of course, Hoyer completed just 58% of his passes and was winless in six starts with the 49ers this year. Garoppolo, on the other hand, won all five of his starts with the 49ers late in the season. Hoyer also struggled in his one and only playoff start with the Texans two years ago. In that game, he was just 15 of 34 with four interceptions.
At this point, there’s still no reason to think that Brady won’t start Sunday’s game. However, until the game starts, there’s no way of knowing how much his hand injury could impact his performance. It’s unlikely the Patriots will have to turn to Hoyer. If they have to, New England can only Hoyer is as prepared to play as he says he is.