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."