HOUSTON -- Ever since Tom Brady took Father Time over his knee and gave him a dose of corporal punishment, Jimmy Garoppolo's future with the Patriots has been dissected more times than those damn frogs in sixth-grade science class (and yes, I'm convinced it was the same 25 every year). To his credit, Garoppolo has tried to downplay all talk, especially this week with Super Bowl Sunday looming.
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"There's a lot of talk about it," he told me earlier in the week. "People have been asking me about it but right now and for the rest of the week, it's all Falcons. There are just so many things going on. It's a hectic week. Just to focus on that [the Falcons] alone is all I can do."
But the latest batch of rumors for NFL insiders continues to bubble to the surface. Cleveland is reportedly interested. Now Chicago.
"Yeah, I mean I've heard those. Lot of things going on, rumors, but that's all they are, rumors."
I repeated Chicago though, his hometown team. I got a big smile but nothing more. Another reporter asked if that was important to him? Playing close to home?
"It's not really my call. We'll see what happens."
Instead, Garoppolo is choosing to remain locked in on preparing for the speedy Falcons defense and the knowledge that he could find himself in the game as quick as you can snap your fingers.
"I have to prepare. And I'm working hard every day to do that."
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, a big advocate of Garoppolo's dating all the way back to his draft year, has no doubt the 25-year-old would be ready to go.
"He's a professional now," said McDaniels. "He's not a rookie anymore. He understands what that means, to go through a practice week and know that you're not starting but you're going in after the first series depending on what happens. I think he approached it the right way, had a great mindset, great attitude, worked extremely hard to be ready to go and tried to go out there and do his job."
Falcons backup quarterback Matt Schaub was once in the very position Garoppolo finds himself in now, a young, promising backup playing behind a franchise quarterback (or at least what Atlanta thought was a franchise QB in Michael Vick).
"Having been in similar shoes of his way back in my career, you can only control what you can control and that's your job, your process -- getting yourself as ready as you can for that next game regardless of whether it's a regular-season game, a playoff game or the Super Bowl," he told me. "You've just got to be in the moment and concentrate on that. The rest will take care of itself down the road. You can't control where you're going to be in the future. You just need to focus on what you can do to get better that day."
McDaniels thinks Garoppolo has been in the right headspace and has the right approach, one born of nearly three full seasons with the Pats.
"He's learned over the course of a few years," McDaniels said. "He's been in our room for three years, He's seen Tom prepare for games. We've coached him the same way we coached every other guy in that room, and he just had an opportunity to do it and you know I think he represented himself well when he was out there. He helped us win a couple football games."
Seems more and more likely that Garoppolo will get a chance to win more than just a couple games elsewhere, if not next season then certainly the year after that when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. That's what he wants, the opportunity to be the number one guy, be it here or somewhere else.
"That's why we play the game, to be the one out there playing," he said. "You know, it's tough not being out there, but it's an opportunity -- a great opportunity -- to come here, learn everything I can, play when I could and hopefully it will help going forward."