Brady zips passes, backup QBs need experience

Alex Kratman

HOWARD ULMAN, AP Sports Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP)—Tom Brady(notes) zipped passes from 10 yards, lofted softer ones from 25 and showed no sign that his shoulder hurt.

It certainly was much better at Tuesday’s practice than it was four days earlier when 350-pound Albert Haynesworth(notes) of the Washington Redskins landed on him, forcing his throwing shoulder into the ground on an incomplete pass.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t say if Brady would play Thursday night against the New York Giants, although he prefers not to use starters much in the final exhibition game.

He’s more interested in watching backup quarterbacks Andrew Walter(notes) and Brian Hoyer than exposing his two-time Super Bowl MVP to hard hits.

They should get more playing time now that Belichick has cut Kevin O’Connell(notes), a third-round draft pick last year who became the No. 2 quarterback behind Matt Cassel(notes) after Brady’s season-ending knee injury in the opener.

“Kevin was put in a position last year because of some circumstances. I think he’s worked hard. I think he’s a very athletic player,” Belichick said. “We gave him the opportunities that we could and we evaluated what we saw from our players and we made decisions based on that.”

O’Connell, who was cut Monday, took over for Brady on the first series of the second half of the Patriots’ 27-24 win at Washington and completed only 3 of 10 passes for 18 yards and two interceptions. Brady had gone 12 for 19 for 150 yards and two touchdowns before suffering what the team called a sore shoulder just before the two-minute warning.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin played in this league with another team and another offensive system,” Belichick said. “One of the things that’s working against Kevin, right now, unfortunately, is the fact that he’s not practice-squad eligible.”

That’s because O’Connell was on the active roster last year for more than eight games, the cutoff point for a player to be eligible. Any team that signs and keeps him would have to put him on the 53-man roster.

His departure leaves Walter, who has been with the Patriots only since Aug. 4 after being waived by Oakland, and Hoyer, a free agent rookie from Michigan State, as Brady’s backups.

Belichick wouldn’t rule out adding a more experienced quarterback.

“Am I saying there’s going to be no more player movement? No, I’m not saying that,” Belichick said. “Could something happen at any position? Yeah, it could.”

Walter is trying to catch up on the playbook after spending three years with the Raiders, who drafted him in the third round in 2005. But he played just 15 games for them.

“It’s the first time in my career I’ve had to learn an offense in this amount of time,” he said. “So (there’s) a lot of work to be done.”

Belichick is being patient.

“We want to give him a fair opportunity to pick things up. He’s improved in a lot of areas,” Belichick said. “There’re some things that we’ve asked him to do that he hasn’t had a chance to do yet or he’s only had a chance to do them one or two times.”

Walter wears No. 16, the same number Cassel had when he was forced into the starting role after spending three years as Brady’s seldom-used backup. Cassel had an outstanding season and was traded to Kansas City, where he signed a six-year, $63 million contract.

Walter and Hoyer have had much less time to familiarize themselves with the offense.

Fortunately for the Patriots, Brady is throwing again with speed and accuracy.

As practice began Tuesday, the three quarterbacks took turns throwing to a Patriots staffer, gradually lengthening their passes. Then Walter and Hoyer went to the other end of the field, leaving Brady with the staffer and quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien.

Brady threw 16 more passes—some after faking handoffs, others about 10 yards straight ahead, and more throwing across his body from right to left and then from left to right.

Then he lined up and called signals in an 11-on-11 drill. He won’t be doing that much, if at all, on Thursday.

“I would expect that the players that played more against Washington will probably play a little less against the Giants,” Belichick said.