Patriots

Tedy Bruschi offers wise advice for Patriots' Jarrett Stidham ahead of 2020 season

Tedy Bruschi offers wise advice for Patriots' Jarrett Stidham ahead of 2020 season

There are many reasons why the New England Patriots are the winningest NFL team since 2000, and one of the biggest reasons for their success is consistently winning the turnover battle.

Not making foolish mistakes/decisions with the football is extremely important, and the Patriots often excel in this area. Lots of the credit for that belongs to Tom Brady. The veteran quarterback has thrown fewer than 10 interceptions in seven of the last 10 seasons. The Patriots led the league with a plus-21 turnover margin in 2019, and they finished in the top five of turnover margin in five of the last six years.

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Maintaining this success will be tougher in 2020 after Brady left the Patriots in free agency and joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March.

Jarrett Stidham is the most likely replacement for Brady as New England's starting quarterback, and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi has some wise advice for the 2019 draft pick ahead of the new season.

“Just take care of the football, ” Bruschi told WBZ's Dan Roche. “Offensive line, put the gumption on yourselves. Get that running game going. Stidham is going to be fine. He's got a great mentality. I think it's something where having a little experience of being with Tom is going to help him and realize, 'It’s not Tom Brady I'm following, it's just a buddy of mine and now I've got to come in and do the job.' I think he has the right mentality to do that.”

Taking care of the football is, of course, easier said than done. And one of the quickest ways to lose Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's trust is by not protecting the football. 

There are reasons to believe Stidham can handle the job, though. He showed flashes of his impressive potential during training camp, the preseason and various regular season practices in 2019, and many of his teammates and college coaches have been singing his praises all offseason.

The transition from backup to starter has been made tougher for Stidham due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Normal on-field offseason activities have been put on hold, but the young quarterback has taken a leadership role by organizing private throwing sessions with teammates, including wide receiver Julian Edelman. The more chemistry Stidham can develop with his offensive teammates, the better chance he'll have of protecting the football in his second season.

Jerod Mayo was 'shocked' by Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung opt-outs

Jerod Mayo was 'shocked' by Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung opt-outs

When he heard the news that Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung were opting out of the 2020 season, Jerod Mayo had the same reaction most people did. 

"I was shocked, disappointed -- a bunch of emotions went through my head initially," said Mayo, who played alongside and is friends with both men.

"Then I took a step back and looked at each situation. These are personal decisions. Obviously, Hightower took a step back and examined his personal situation and so did Chung and I totally respect the decision. I know coach (Bill Belichick) already talked about it.”

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Speaking on a video conference call Friday morning, the Patriots inside linebackers coach said the leadership and play of both players will be missed but added that, “From a football standpoint, you just gotta treat it like an injury.”

“We’ve always had that 'next man up' mentality and that’s how we’re approaching it going forward,” said Mayo. “With that said, even though those guys have opted out, those guys will still continue to mentor some of the younger guys. Guys who haven’t played as much ball.

"And I can totally appreciate it. Hightower is one of the smartest football players I’ve ever been around and so is Chung. Those guys are not here with us this year on the field but they are still around.”

Mayo saluted the work the organization has done in getting the facility prepared for dealing with football during a pandemic. 

“The staff has done a fantastic job,” he said. “One thing I’ve always respected about this organization is they don’t just try to solve these complex problems in-house, they go out and ask other people what they’re doing. 

“When I walk around the building, I feel safe and I think the players do, as well,” Mayo continued. “I think they’ve done a fantastic job. Our operations people deserve a shout-out.

"This is such a fluid situation. Things change, whether it’s the CDC changing guidelines or any of that stuff. It changes so much and those guys have done a great job around the building so guys feel safe and coaches feel safe.”

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Jarrett Stidham not backing down with Cam Newton around: 'I'm definitely ready'

Jarrett Stidham not backing down with Cam Newton around: 'I'm definitely ready'

For the better part of three months this offseason, there was no evidence to suggest that Jarrett Stidham wouldn't be The Next Guy in New England. 

The initial wave of free agency came and went. The draft came and went. Still, the 2019 fourth-round selection out of Auburn looked like the choice to replace Tom Brady. Bill Belichick hadn't brought in anyone else outside of Brian Hoyer and two undrafted rookies.

Sure, it was a lot to ask of a Day 3 draft choice who had taken zero snaps of consequence as a rookie. But it looked like the Patriots believed he could be their starter.

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Then on June 29, news broke that the Patriots signed Cam Newton. Stidham was in Texas, visiting family, when he heard.

"Tom (Brady) deciding to go to Tampa, signing Cam and everything . . . it's just kind of a wild offseason," Stidham said. "But I would say my routine hasn't changed at all. My work ethic has kind of been the same throughout everything that's going on.

"I've just really tried to focus on being a good teammate and working as hard as I possibly can to really improve this offseason. It's been a wild ride this offseason, but happy to be back in the building with everybody and kind of get rolling here."

And happy to compete, he explained. 

Even with one of the most gifted quarterbacks in modern NFL history now present in the Patriots meetings, Stidham told reporters Friday he still feels as though that job -- the one that looked like his from the end of March through the end of June -- is up for grabs.

He didn't hesitate when asked if he believed he still had a chance to be named the starter with a good performance this summer.

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"Absolutely," he said. "I think I'm definitely ready. I think I've put a lot of work in this offseason to really improve. Mentally, physically and really in a lot of different areas. But at the end of the day, I'm extremely excited to compete with Cam and Hoy as we go forward in training camp and get into the season and things like that.

"I'm really looking forward to the competition. I love competing in whatever it is so I'm really looking forward to it."

And then there was this answer, to a question about his relationship with Brady, where Stidham -- purposefully or not -- shed some light on the fact that he still likes his odds of being The Next Guy.

"I don't really look at it as replacing Tom Brady," he said. "I just want to be myself and I want to be a leader for this team and be the best teammate that I can be for this team. I don't really look at it that way."

Stidham even went so far as to say that he was "excited" when the Patriots signed Newton. Though the rest of the world saw the acquisition as an impediment to Stidham's promotion, he says he took a different approach. 

"What a great opportunity to compete with another great player," Stidham said. "To compete with Hoy and Cam. I was actually really, really excited for the opportunity ahead."

Maybe that's lip service. Maybe that's a young player trying to convince himself there's a real competition ahead. 

But at times on Friday's WebEx press conference, Stidham sounded like he believed he had a real crack to be the No. 1. Even with a superstar 6-foot-5, 245-pound former MVP who wears No. 1 now counting himself among Stidham's teammates.