FOXBORO -- It doesn't occur after each Patriots practice, but every so often Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo will square off in some friendly competition as their teammates head to the locker room.
With a trash can placed in the corner of one of the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, Brady and Garoppolo will situate themselves about 30 yards away or more and try to drop passes inside. They'll go back and forth with their attempts at conquering "the bucket drill," with the winner earning -- at the very least -- bragging rights for that day's post-practice work.
Recently, it was Garoppolo who got the best of Brady, dropping a couple of high-arcing bombs into the barrel before walking off victorious.
Even though the drill doesn't exactly simulate game speed or what it's like to hit a moving target, Brady says those repetitions can be valuable.
"I think it’s just, it’s really good," Brady said. "You’re always trying to work on different aspects of the game, and it’s hard to get the receivers out here after practice and run. We probably throw 20-25 of those balls, and it’s hard to have a receiver, after a two-and-a-half hour practice in 90-degree weather, go run a bunch of 30-40-yard routes.
"You just put the bucket out there, and that little sucker is tough to hit, man. It doesn’t move, it’s got no arms, it can’t adjust to anything. That’s why I’m glad we always have guys that have great hands and really attract the ball. It’s just good practice."
Those extra minutes of work are just part of the equation when it comes to a Patriots quarterback's work day. Brady has watched Garoppolo go about his business for more than two years now, and he acknowledged on Sunday that his protégé puts in the requisite time to earn the appreciation of his teammates and coaches.
"He works his tail off to prepare and I know he has the respect of everybody," Brady said. "That’s what you try to do, you try to come out here and prepare, earn the respect of your teammates and your coaches, and you’ve got to put the work in. You’ve got to show that you’re willing to show up every day and do whatever it takes to get the job done.
"It’s been fun to see his development. We got off to a good start the other night and hopefully we keep it going. We have three days of practice coming up against the Bears that will be good preparation for our team. We’ve got to use them really well and hopefully we can come out of Thursday night, after these practices and the game, a stronger team than we are now."