New England football fans can expect to see a steady diet of backup quarterback Ryan Mallett (red jersey, No. 15) when the Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the preseason opener for both teams on Friday night. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN
FOXBORO â€” This is the time of year when the conversations between Texas childhood pals Will Middlebrooks and Ryan Mallett slow to a crawl.
On the surface, itâ€™s perfectly understandable.
Middlebrooksâ€™ baseball duties are in full bloom with two or possibly three months in his season remaining. With Mallett, the dog days of summer represent a hectic time, with practices and intra-squad scrimmages going hand in hand with film sessions and preseason football contests.
The 16-game gauntlet, better known as the NFLâ€™s regular season, will be here before too long, hence the importance of Mallett and his peers to put in their due diligence now before wins and losses become a serious referencing point.
For now, the friendship between Middlebrooks and Mallett â€“ two 20-something professional athletes who spent their formative years growing up together before attending opposite high schools in Texarkana, Tex. â€“ is superseded by the call of duty. Given that Middlebrooksâ€™ 2013 season has resembled the ebb and flow of ocean tides rather than a straight line, it wouldnâ€™t be shocking to learn about a certain prominent voice in his life jumping at the chance to provide some type of reassuring message that begins and ends with â€śhang in there.â€ť
Perhaps such dialogue between Mallett and Middlebrooks will transpire in the near future. While the third-year New England quarterback busies himself by doing everything that goes with the territory of serving as Tom Bradyâ€™s understudy, he does so with a firm belief that Middlebrooks will be able to rebound in time to rejoin the Red Sox for the stretch run.
â€śIâ€™ve been in camp, so I havenâ€™t had outside contact,â€ť Mallett relayed earlier this week at Gillette Stadium, after being asked if heâ€™s had the chance to reach out to Middlebrooks. â€śWeâ€™re both busy and in the swing of things now. This is when we see each other the least.
â€ś(Middlebrooks) will be ready. Heâ€™s just got to get back into the groove of things,â€ť was how Mallett elected to phrase the reassurance he has in his Lone Star State chum. â€śI know heâ€™s working hard, and I donâ€™t question that at all. Heâ€™s just waiting on his time.â€ť
Asked what he would say to Middlebrooks in the event of a pause in his Patriotsâ€™ duties, Mallett replied, â€śEverything happens for a reason, and Will knows that. Heâ€™ll be ready when they call him up [from Triple-A Pawtucket]. Our fathers were coaches, so we know what the game is all about. Weâ€™ve always been there for each other and weâ€™re both tough kids.â€ť
Switching gears to pigskin-related matters, Mallett expressed that for someone in his particular shoes, the importance of preseason games cannot be quantified. With Brady figuring to receive an adequate number of game snaps for the sake of continuing the process of getting on the same page with his new cast of receiving targets, itâ€™s also conceivable that New England fans will see plenty of Mallett beginning with Fridayâ€™s exhibition opener at Philadelphia.
â€śIâ€™m excited because I know Iâ€™m going to get to play. Itâ€™s not like if somebody gets hurt, Iâ€™m going to play,â€ť Mallett expressed. â€śIâ€™m going to treat (the preseason games) as my game-day experience by putting what happens in the bank and afterwards look back and see what I did right and wrong.â€ť
With rookies and free-agent signings making up a vast majority of New Englandâ€™s pass catchers, Mallett understands he bears some responsibility in bringing them along and being able to have a concrete answer in the event someone has a question about the terminology employed in offensive coordinator Josh McDanielsâ€™ system.
â€śThe more experience you get, it becomes easier to help others because you donâ€™t have as many questions as you probably did in the past,â€ť Mallett stated. â€śMy first two years, it was hard for me to help guys because I was still picking up the system too.
â€śAfter seeing how things go and how we want things to be done â€“ running routes, protect, all that stuff â€“ itâ€™s easier to help out,â€ť Mallett added.
Bringing along newcomer and third-stringer Tim Tebow also falls under Mallettâ€™s increased responsibilities with the Patriots. â€śHeâ€™s learning as much as he can and weâ€™re trying to help him.â€ť
During the 2012 preseason, Mallett completed 33 of 67 passes for exactly 300 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. His quarterback ranking was 70.5. As a rookie in 2011, he went 36-for-63 for 357 yards with the same number of touchdowns and interceptions (one). His QB rating checked in at 72.0.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
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