FOXBORO -- Few have the experience that Bill O'Brien does when it comes to understanding Tom Brady's demeanor in Patriots quarterback meetings.
The Texans coach hopped on a conference call with Patriots reporters Tuesday and was asked about the future Hall-of-Fame quarterback. How was he behind the scenes when it came to helping quarterbacks behind him on the depth chart? Was he focused on his job, or did he serve as a mentor of sorts? That was one of the popular storylines surrounding the Patriots this summer when Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo were splitting reps in training camp to prepare for Brady's four-game suspension.
"He’s a great guy," said O'Brien, who coached quarterbacks in New England in 2009 and 2010 and served as offensive coordinator in 2011.
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"Tom’s a great person. I can remember sitting in there one time one of the years I was there and coaching him. He was counting off all the backup quarterbacks that had been there over the years. There were many of them. That was pretty cool to just hear his memory on every one of their names. That tells you right there that he cares about the guys in the quarterback room with him. Look, those guys ask a lot of questions, I’m sure. Tom definitely gives him his knowledge because he wants the team to win. Tom’s a great teammate and great guy."
O'Brien acknowledged that Brady had to be itching to get back on the field, but he expected Brady to be making the most of his time away from Patriots facilities at Gillette Stadium during his league-imposed ban.
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"I think he’s probably handling it very well because he’s a really bright guy," O'Brien said. "But I’m sure he’s chomping at the bit to get back in there. I’m sure. He’s probably one of the most competitive guys I’ve been around. Like I said, he wants to be there for his team. I’m sure it’s something that he just can’t wait to get back. I’m sure."
Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater has signed a two-year deal to return to the team, according to an ESPN's Mike Reiss.
Slater had made a free-agent visit to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday. The seven-time Pro Bowl special teams ace, who turns 33 in September, has spent the past 10 seasons in a New England. Slater, one of the veteran leaders in the locker room, signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract extension in 2016.
The Patriots traded with the Oakland Raiders for kick returner/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson earlier this week to bolster their special teams.
A new catch rule is coming to the NFL.
So, controversies such as the Jesse James' touchdown reversal in the Steelers' loss to the Patriots in December and the Kelvin Benjamin call in the Bills-Pats game a week later likely would have resulted in upheld TDs under the new rule.
According to the Washington Post, Troy Vincent, the NFL VP of football operations, said competition committee members plan to propose getting rid of portions of the rule related to a receiver going to the ground while making a catch and to slight movement of the football while it’s in the receiver’s hands. Vincent also said the committee also intends to raise the bar by which an on-field ruling of a catch could be overturned via replay review.
That apparently was what was done in Super Bowl 52, when the Eagles' Corey Clement's juggling TD catch was not overturned via replay.
“We worked backward,” said Vincent told the Post. “We looked at plays and said: Do you want that to be a catch? And then we applied that to the rule.”
The rule modifications could be approved by the competition committee as early Tuesday, the Post reported, and owners will meet next week in Orlando to vote on it. Rule changes must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 franchises. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been pushing for the catch rule to be modified.