FOXBORO - It must have been a relief.
Jimmy Garoppolo rolled to his right, completed a pass, and fell to the turf on his right shoulder. Then he got up.:
JAGUARS 31, PATRIOTS 24
- DJ Bean's thoughts: Nobody's perfect
- Surprise! Goodell in the house
- Position change needed for Cyrus Jones
- Is lots of preseason playing time a bad sign for Dion Lewis?
- Undrafted rookies Hollister and Carr shine in debuts
The play, which occurred in the second quarter of the Patriots preseason opener against Jacksonville, was nearly identical to the one in Week 2 last season that ended what was supposed to be his four-game audition as a starter.
There was one important distinction between the two plays: No one drove Garoppolo into the Gillette Stadium surface the way Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso did about 11 months ago. Still, Garoppolo flashed back to that game and that moment as he picked himself up off the ground to face the Jaguars defense for another down Thursday night.
"I actually, as I popped up from it, we completed it and I actually thought about that," he said. "So, yeah, just kind of a confidence boost, but just making sure the shoulder’s all good. It felt good tonight."
It showed. He went 15-for-18 from that point on with two touchdowns, and he finished the game 22-for-28 for 235 yards and no interceptions.
He was accurate. He made good decisions. He ran a clean operation, particularly during a well-oiled two-minute drill to end the first half. And he bounced back from two big hits from Jags defensive end Yannick Ngakoue on New England's first two drives of the game.
"As a quarterback, you’re in the red jersey all practice, so getting that first hit out of the way – I know it sounds weird – but it’s a nice feeling," Garoppolo said. "Take the hit and bounce back from it. You know, I think the O-line did a great job. I messed up a couple times with them and hurt them, but overall, those guys did a real good job up front."
For the better part of the past two weeks, Garoppolo was less-than-stellar in Patriots training camp practice. He readily admitted it. He readily acknowledged that this has now been a trend for just about each of the past four summers.
He's not sure why.
"It’s not on purpose," he insisted Thursday. "I don’t know. I try to go out there and practice well every day with the guys. I mean, you’re trying different things in practice sometimes. You’re working with different guys. But, I don’t know. I don’t think there’s really a rhyme or reason to it. It’s football at the end of the day."
Garoppolo smiled as he spoke. He didn't seem like a player who needed a well-played preseason game to feel good about himself. After two weeks of at-times strange practice performances, two weeks of talking heads wondering what was up with his, he did not appear overly satisfied by what he'd done.
His night probably went about how he hoped it would. It sounded like it went about how he expected it would.
"We went out there and executed, really," he said of his second quarter. "I mean, it wasn’t anything special."
There was no relief in his voice, and in that way, he's been consistent. Even with alarm bells going off around him since camp began, he has never seemed concerned. Probably because he knows who he is, in the same way, his team does.