Garoppolo, Patriots linemen ate an insane amount of barbecue on their off-day

Garoppolo, Patriots linemen ate an insane amount of barbecue on their off-day

HOUSTON -- Jimmy Garoppolo looked like a little kid describing his favorite Christmas present. He smiled, his eyebrows shot up, and he held his hands up to his chest at almost shoulder-width apart. 

He had just finished up a long media-availability session, answering incessant questions about his uncertain future, but he quickly got a second wind as the memory came flooding back. 

Tuesday's barbecue lunch was that good.

"They had trays like this," Garoppolo said. "I'm talking ribs that were like two pounds each. It was phenomenal. We got after it."

The Patriots backup quarterback and most of the team's offensive linemen used their off-day on Tuesday to make their way over to Killen's Barbecue, about a 30-minute drive from the club's hotel, to consume an awe-inspiring amount of meat. 

"They were really nice and big, big, big guys," owner Ronnie Killen told CultureMap Houston. "Their offensive linemen were eff-ing huge. I put out about 40 pounds of meat, and they ate every bit of it, except for a couple of beef ribs. They ate dessert, too."

David Andrews was the one who picked the spot after getting the recommendation from his former college teammate and current Texans center Ben Jones. Among those making the trip were Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Shaq Mason, Cameron Fleming, LaAdrian Waddle and practice-squad linemen Chris Barker and Jamil Douglas. 

Not only would it be a good way to experience some authentic Texas barbecue, Andrews thought, but it was an opportunity to relax and enjoy some rare time off together as a unit away from home. 

"We've got a great group of guys," Andrews said. "It's nice, weeks like this, when it's kind of just ya'll. Families haven't really gotten here yet so it's just ya'll for a few days. Just to kind of spend some time together outside of football and be able to hang out, it's awesome."

Nate Solder explained that while those kinds of moments may be relatively few and far between during a season when guys are in their own routines away from the facility, but they help everyone get to know each other a little bit better, which can help foster better communication. And in a roundabout way, it can actually help to form a better on-the-field product. 

Especially with the influx of young talent the Patriots have had on the offensive line -- Andrews and Mason are second-year starters while starting left guard Joe Thuney is a rookie as is reserve interior lineman Ted Karras -- when you can get a few hours together away from football, it's huge. 

"New guys, they don't know you. The more they get to know you, I think the better it is," Solder said. "I think they feel a little more comfortable in communicating and being a little more honest with you a little bit. 

"I'm just learning this because I've kind of been with a group that's been with each other forever. Now, the last couple seasons, it's all been new guys. The faster you get to know each other, you can just be honest with each other and say what you really feel rather than kind of try to be polite or beat around the bush. It's beneficial."

And then there was the quarterback, who did his best to keep up as the ribs, sausage, brisket, sweet corn and mac-and-cheese were inhaled. 

Garoppolo has long considered Patriots offensive linemen among his best friends on the team so Tuesday was a chance for him to savor some time with his buddies before the season comes to an abrupt end, leading to who-knows-what kind of roster changes that could split them up. 

Garoppolo, of course, is already the subject of myriad trade rumors. 

"It's just kind of one of those things," Garoppolo said. "Whatever happens this offseason, the team's not going to be the same next year. That's how it goes. It changes every year. It's a tight knit group of guys we got this year, and you gotta soak up those moments."

Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

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Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

Former Patriots defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois is signing with the Lions, according to Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports.

The 31-year-old had six tackles in six games for the Patriots in 2017. He'll reunite with ex-Patriots defensive coordinator and now Lions head coach Matt Patricia in Detroit.


What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

It’s one of the rites of spring. This is the time of year NFL fans across America overemphasize the importance of their team’s coach or general manager popping up at a particular program’s pro day. You can set your watch to it. 

Coach X showed up at University Y so you KNOW he wants Player Z!

The pro day circuit is just one aspect of the pre-draft preparation process for NFL clubs, though. The information gleaned from stops on college campuses through March and early April is, as Bill Belichick might say, just part of the evaluation mosaic. 

The tape matters. The combine matters. Private workouts matter. Official visits matter. Claiming a meeting or an interview between a player and a club at any one of these spots will dictate a draft-day match is foolhardy. 

Still . . . it's interesting to track teams’ whereabouts in order to see if any trends develop.

Here we'll lay out where the two primary players in the Patriots front office, Belichick and Nick Caserio, have been spotted over the last couple weeks since pro days kicked off. Their itinerary may be nothing but a sliver of a view into where the team's interests lay, but we’ll take that sliver with the understanding that it is what it is.


Belichick made his seemingly annual trip to the University of Alabama to catch up with old friend Nick Saban and see some of the college game's top prospects. The Crimson Tide could have more than a dozen players drafted, and most of their top prospects reside on the defensive side of the ball. Receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne shoild be long gone by the time the Patriots pick at No. 31, but there are plenty of other talented defenders they could have a shot at. Linebacker Rashaan Evans (6-foot-3, 234) would be an interesting fit for a defense that could use an addition to its second level. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (6-4, 297) is intriguing because of his versatility as a base end who could rush from the inside in sub situations. Safety Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 214) also seems like a Patriots type. Even punter JK Scott could be on their radar. 


Caserio headed to Wisconsin's pro day, where linebacker Jack Cichy posted a very strong short-shuttle (4.28 seconds) and three-cone times (7.10). He's an off-the-ball type who measured in at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds and is projected by to go on Day 3. The Badgers don't have quite as many pro prospects as Alabama, but they have seven or eight who could hear their names called on draft weekend. Corner Nick Nelson (5-11, 208) and edge defender Leon Jacobs (6-3, 230) were two of Wisconsin's best players, and would’ve been worth a look from the Patriots director of player personnel. 


Belichick kept a close eye on the defensive linemen participating in NC State's pro day Monday. Bradley Chubb is expected to be the first defensive player taken in the draft so the Patriots won't have a shot at him (which Belichick admitted to Chubb following the workout), but defensive tackle BJ Hill (6-4, 315) may have been of interest. He's thought of as a mid-rounder after a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Kentavius Street (6-2, 280) is really powerful as a defensive end and could be had toward the end of the draft. Belichick also reportedly spent some time watching backs Nyheim Hines (5-8, 197) and Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 233) run routes. 

Caserio, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the workout put together by Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside (6-2, 201). Our Mike Giardi put together a piece on Woodside, who tested well at the combine and is considered to have a good football IQ, earlier this offseason. Read it. Caserio was joined at Toledo by Patriots scout Patrick Stewart, who was also present for Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta's pro day.


Belichick went from NC State to South Carolina where he reportedly met with tight end Hayden Hurst for the second time. Hurst (6-4, 250), a walk-on who played two years of minor-league baseball, may be the first tight end taken in this year's draft. Linebacker Skai Moore (6-2, 221) was extremely productive for the Gamecocks, leading the team in tackles all four years of his career, which Belichick clearly appreciated. Moore told reporters after his pro day work out that he met with Belichick for an hour and that Belichick told him he's a great player. Belichick and Moore also met at the combine, Moore said.

So what can we make of Belichick and Caserio's stops thus far? We’re careful not to make too much of these stops visits, but here are some quick-hitting thoughts . . .

* They appear to want more information on the draft's second (or third) tier of quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that the Patriots won't be in the running to select passers like USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. But the group that includes Woodside, Lauletta and others -- perhaps Washington State's Luke Falk, whose pro day will be at Utah State on Mar. 28, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, and Western Kentucky's Mike White -- seems to be of interest.

* Are the Patriots looking for their next playmaker at tight end? Even with Rob Gronkowski on the roster (assuming he returns in 2018) the Patriots could use another pass-catcher at this spot. Their interest in Hurst is intriguing. If they pop up at South Dakota State's pro day on Mar. 30 -- home of Dallas Goedert -- then that might be an indication they are considering a running mate and heir apparent for Gronkowski. 

* Outside of offensive tackle, off-the-ball linebacker might be the biggest need the Patriots have not addressed via trade or free agency this offseason. It would come as little surprise if they opted for a rookie (or two) who play that position in this year's draft. Evans is among the draft's most talented at that spot, but there are some questions around the league as to whether or not he'd be the traffic cop that, for instance, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower have been for the Patriots. Getting a closer look at Cichy and Moore would also seem to indicate that New England is taking a close look at a newer (smaller) breed at that spot. Belichick has long liked bigger linebackers, but as the speed of the game picks up perhaps he’ll be more open to going small(ish) here. The Patriots were represented at Viriginia Tech's pro day on Mar. 14 (home of top linebacker prospect Tremaine Edmunds) and it'll be interesting to see if they show up at Boise State (home of Leighton Vander Esch) on April 3. Belichick is reportedly headed to Georgia's pro day on Wednesday, where he'll have a chance to see athletic off-the-ball 'backer Roquan Smith and athletic edge player Lorenzo Carter. Either would immediately provide the Patriots front-seven with a shot of athleticism. 

* That Belichick has seen a boatload of talented defensive linemen at Alabama and NC State isn't a shocker. While they may not have a glaring need up front for 2018 — especially after trading for Danny Shelton and signing Adrian Clayborn — both Shelton and Malcom Brown could be elsewhere in 2019 if the Patriots don't pick up their fifth-year options. Trey Flowers is also headed into a contract year.