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For now, Patriots are “on to” Garoppolo

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick made the phrase “On to” a part of NFL history after his team’s embarrassing Week 4 loss in Kansas City and through the Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Apparently, the side-stepping response to unwanted queries was not retired in the offseason. With his team on the field for OTAs this week and dealing with media for the first time this offseason as a group, Belichick averted questions about Deflategate and even the Super Bowl by resurrecting the elusive response.

“That was a long time ago,” Belichick said of the Super Bowl. “We’re on to next year. It’s 2015. You can forget about last year; that was last year.”

One of the most interesting areas the Patriots are “on to,” is quarterback, where, until or unless there are changes, Tom Brady is suspended for the first four games in the aftermath of Deflategate.

So that is reason to pay closer attention to second year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who would start if Brady is not available.

That’s a lot to throw at a former Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) passer who didn’t even have a playbook when he ran the offense at Eastern Illinois. But Garoppolo isn’t worried about the big picture. It’s literally one day at a time.

“I’m just going out to practice every day trying to improve, trying to get my teammates better and be better,” Garoppolo said after OTA practice.

“We’ll go from there. I just have the mindset that I’m trying to get better. That’s all you can control at the end of the day.”

He also said this sudden situation change didn’t alter his approach, preparation or offseason in any way.

“Just went about my business, tried to get prepared for this season, got in the playbook a lot, got out there with some of the guys, threw it around,” he said. “It was a good offseason. Got to spend some time with family, see all them. Now, back to work. It’s good to get back to OTAs, get back out here with the guys. Got a lot of work to do, but we’re excited about it. There’s a long way to go. We just got a couple practices under our belt.”

–Linebacker Brandon Spikes never seemed to completely settle into Foxborough in his first four-year stint with the team as a second-round pick.

Although he was a starter and key run stuffer on defense, injuries and other issues always seemed to disrupt his status. When he left via free agency to join the Buffalo Bills a year ago, he even sent out a seemingly revealing tweet that described his Patriots’ tenure as “4 years a slave.”

So after playing out a one-year deal in Buffalo, Spikes’ return to New England was somewhat surprising, even to the linebacker himself.

“I’m happy to be home,” Spikes said. “This is the organization that drafted me. First-class place, and I’m very, very, very appreciative of that.

“When The Hoodie and I talked, we just put it all behind us,” he said, referring to Belichick. “You know, I was a bit surprised to hear his voice, the way I left. But that’s in the past and I’m very thankful to be here. I just want to show them that I’ve changed as an individual, as a player, as a man. Better than saying, I’m going to show them.”

Defensive end Geneo Grissom, New England’s third-round draft pick out of Oklahoma, was just one of the many rookies a bit unnerved when meeting with the New England media this week.

Belichick lays down the law in terms of what players can and can’t talk about with reporters. Veterans get comfortable with the work environment over time, but for rookies it can be intimidating as they try to carve out a career for themselves under the demanding ways of their coach.

“I don’t want to say the wrong thing,” Grissom said with a smile after admitting he was nervous to speak with the gathered media. He fell back on the phrase “just trying to get better every day” endless times, including in response to a question about how he became a fan of the local hockey team, the Bruins.

–As the Dallas Cowboys did earlier in May, the Patriots had a drone flying over OTA practice this week to record video footage and give new meaning to the eye in the sky. The drone recorded the bulk of the reps in team drills and special teams action, but Belichick had little to say about what the new angle might offer.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Belichick said when asked about the drone.


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