While backing up Brady, Hoyer learned his lessons well

While backing up Brady, Hoyer learned his lessons well

FOXBORO -- Over the last three days, there has been a familiar scene playing out at the tail end of every Patriots-Bears joint practice session: Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer exchanging hugs and handshakes, and chatting not just about football, but family.

Those moments, those conversations, had Hoyer -- now backing up Jay Cutler in Chicago -- taking a trip down memory lane to his first day in Foxboro as an undrafted quarterback, hoping to survive the day.

“[On] Day One . . . he came to introduce himself: ‘Hey, I’m Tom.’ I knew that already, but that’s the way he is,” said Hoyer, thinking back to the spring of 2009. “He is so humble. A great guy, and (he's stayed) in touch. He’s always been one of the first guys to text me after a game, whether it was good, bad or ugly, or whatever it was. It’s a friendship I've really cherished over the years.”

In three seasons with the Patriots, Hoyer didn’t start a single game, throwing just 43 passes during repeated mop-up duty. Like any young player, he craved the opportunity, any opportunity. But Brady stood in his way, just as he has with every backup to come through these parts -- Damon Huard, Rohan Davey, Matt Cassel, Ryan Mallett and now Jimmy Garoppolo.

Instead of growing impatient, however, Hoyer tried to learn from the master, however he could.

“I think, for me, (it was best to) just sit there and watch,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. But [Brady's] also a guy who goes out of his way to help . . . 

"I remember . . . just trying to sit back and watch and soak up everything, whether it was in the meeting room, on the field, training, whatever it might be. He’s an intense competitor. If you can just soak it all up, you just kind of gain it by being around him.”

That’s easier said than done, however. In Brady, we’re talking about one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- quarterbacks of his era and all-time. His brain functions on a different level. So do his muscles. That was a difficulty for Hoyer then, and for Garoppolo now.

“Sure, yeah, I mean at some point you gotta stop and say,‘Well, hold on, how are you seeing this?' Or 'How did you know that?’ " said Hoyer. "I remember that was the only question: 'How did you know this was going to be the coverage?' And he’d just go, ‘I’ve seen it years and years and years.’ So there’s definitely times you just have to stop and ask him, 'How were you even knowing to take the ball here, or check to this play?'

"But a lot of it was just seeing him operate: The intensity, demanding so much out of his teammates.”

Hoyer would eventually get his opportunity, starting 26 games over the last four seasons with Arizona, Cleveland and Houston. He was viewed as a leader in his last two stops and has wound up forging a perfectly acceptable career, especially when you consider where he came from.

Now Garoppolo, with a greater draft pedigree and potential, gets that chance, sooner than expected, and with Brady’s team. Garoppolo has a chance to put his stamp on this season and be a starting quarterback somewhere, be it with the Pats or, most likely, in some other NFL city . . . where he’ll have to prove he, like Hoyer, learned from Brady and can make at least some of those lessons translate on the football field.

Would WWE outbid Patriots for Gronkowski?

Would WWE outbid Patriots for Gronkowski?

If Rob Gronkowski is serious about leaving football to become a wrestler, it probably won't be for the kind of money the Patriots are paying him, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer tells WEEI.

“I think that is more of a Gronkowski is going to make the call himself and I don’t think it is WWE is trying to — they are not going to outbid him," Meltzer told WEEI "Dale and Holley with Keefe" show on Thursday. "They are not going to spend $10 million a year on him. But, if he’s done with football, are they interested in him? Yeah, it is pretty clear they are."

Meltzer reported last week that World Wrestling Entertainment was interested in signing Gronk to a "similar style" deal to that of Ronda Rousey, who left UFC to join WWE for a reported $5 million a year. Gronkowski is scheduled to make $8.6 million from the Patriots in 2018. 

Meltzer cited NFL-turned-wrestling examples of James Laurinaitis, Kevin Greene and Brock Lesnar as the footsteps Gronk could follow. 

"Now, can you do it on a Brock Lesnar schedule of 10 matches a year? Yeah, probably. Lesnar was a unique type of character. He made probably $5 million-plus a year in wrestling the last couple of years.

Gronkowski is also said to be contemplating a career as an action movie star. 

Here's more on Gronk from NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran. 


Not many needs for young interior offensive line of Patriots

Not many needs for young interior offensive line of Patriots

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent to that area, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today we're looking at a spot where the Patriots are completely set . . . we think: interior offensive line. 


HOW THEY PERFORMED: It wasn't always pretty, particularly at the outset of the season when Tom Brady was being hit at a rate that rivaled years when he was most battered. And the way the season ended for this group -- with Shaq Mason allowing a sack to Philly's Brandon Graham that helped end the Super Bowl -- was obviously less than ideal. But that shouldn't overshadow how this group performed, particularly in the second half. Mason was a borderline Pro Bowl talent (Pro Football Focus' fourth-best grade at right tackle for 2017), pairing his devastating run-blocking with a vastly-improved ability to protect. David Andrews continued to play solidly and effectively make calls from his place as the line's pivot, getting through the season as PFF's No. 4-graded center. And while Joe Thuney had occasional issues with power rushers, he graded out as PFF's seventh-best left guard. Three top-10 players at their respective spots? And a reliable all-around backup in Ted Karras (three total pressures and one bad snap in two starts at center)? Plenty of teams around the league would love to be as solid up front. 


WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018: Thuney, Mason, Andrews, Karras, James Ferentz, Jason King

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED: Not dire. At all, really. It's a 1 out of 10. They have three young, relatively healthy, improving players who will come back in 2018 and should slot in as immediate starters. The No. 1 backup at all three interior spots, Karras, is back as well. Ferentz is veteran depth piece who spent last season on the team's practice squad and was given a future contract by the team soon after the Super Bowl. Jason King (and Cole Croston who can play both guard and tackle) will also be back with the team when offseason training begins. 

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY: The best guard on the market was one of the best guards in the league in 2017: Carolina's Andrew Norwell. Other veterans who will garner interest on the market? Colts 2014 second-round pick Jack Mewhort and former Patriots starter Josh Kline. Jonathan Cooper, briefly a Patriot, will also be back on the market this offseason. Will the Patriots be interested in any of them? My guess is no, unless the team is put in an impossible situation at left tackle and they want to try Thuney on the outside, freeing up their left guard spot . . . but that's a pretty far-fetched scenario at this point. Even though Thuney played tackle in college, the Patriots drafted him to play on the inside. 

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT: Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson will be fascinating to track on draft day. The 330-pound guard is considered by some to be one of the two or three best football players in the draft. He's touted by experts as a surefire longtime starter with All-Pro potential. But he's a guard. Are teams going to be willing to spend a top-10 or top-15 pick on a position that is ably filled by late-round picks and undrafted players all over the league? Nelson's an interesting case study in that regard. It's a pretty strong draft class at the top, it seems. Georgia's Isaiah Wynn and Texas-El Paso's Will Hernandez have received first-round buzz, as have a few centers: Iowa's James Daniels, Arkansas' Frank Ragnow and Ohio State's Billy Price. Then there are the tackles-who-may-be-guards-at-the-next-level. Texas' Connor Williams, who we mentioned in our tackle assessment, is the biggest name who could end up getting kicked inside. 

HOW THE PATRIOTS CAN ADDRESS IT: There really isn't much to address, in my opinion. However, there's a little wrinkle here that's worth keeping in mind. The Patriots were reportedly interested in drafting Indiana's center/guard prospect Dan Feeney in the third round last year. They had the 72nd pick. He ended up going to the Chargers at No. 71. The Patriots traded down for a pair of picks when Feeney was gone. One was used to get defensive end Derek Rivers. The other helped them snag tackle Tony Garcia. Why the interest in Feeney? His size (6-foot-4, 305 pounds) and athletic profile (7.52-second three-cone, 101-inch broad jump) actually compared somewhat favorably to those of Logan Mankins (6-4, 307, 7.52-second three-cone, 95-inch broad jump). The idea of having him at center, between Thuney and Mason, could've been enticing. So will the Patriots jump at the chance to add a similarly-gifted player to play in the middle if the opportunity presents itself? Never say never, but I don't think so. Andrews received an extension after the draft, keeping him in New England through 2020, and he was named a captain before the 2017 season.