Hoyer never stops preparing to start

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / August 18, 2011

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TAMPA - Which players start exhibition games isn’t much of a concern for Bill Belichick.

When the Patriots coach prepares a game plan, everyone is involved. In the final hours before kickoff, a select few will find out if their services will be needed. That’s what happened last week when Tom Brady and other starters found out the night before the Jaguars game they wouldn’t be playing.

If anyone can appreciate Belichick’s methods, it’s backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. In each of the previous two seasons, Hoyer has been preparing just in case he is needed. Last week, he started against the Jaguars. Rookie Ryan Mallett took over in the second half.

This week, Belichick wasn’t giving any hints about who would make the trip to Florida for tonight’s exhibition game against the Buccaneers. Will the starters rest again? He doesn’t know who the starters are yet, he said.

“You want them to know well enough what to do so they can at least go out there and have a chance to do it,’’ Belichick said. “Does that mean win the game at all costs and run your triple reverse throw back pass - your secret play you’ve been working on - in this game? That’s not really the point of it. It’s to evaluate how the players play, but you have to give them enough so that they truly have the chance to play, and know what we’re doing, and have enough of an idea of what the opponents are doing so they can compete against it.’’

Brady was shocked when he learned he wouldn’t face the Jaguars. But for Hoyer, it’s the scenario he has faced every week since he joined the Patriots in 2009, when he was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State. He has since emerged as Brady’s primary backup.

Hoyer has mopped up in blowouts and played in games that had no bearing on the postseason.

Hoyer has played in 10 games. So when it comes to the preseason, he looks forward to it and the element of surprise keeps him focused.

“It’s actually better for me to be in that situation because you have to be ready at a moment’s notice anyway,’’ Hoyer said. “So, Coach will decide that and then we just have to be able to go when our name’s called.’’

The tutelage Hoyer has received in the Patriots system is showing. Against Jacksonville, he completed 15 of 21 passes for 171 yards and one touchdown in the 47-12 win.

During practice Tuesday, Hoyer had a couple of miscues while working with the scout team, but said those moments are when he can work on correcting mistakes.

During practices Hoyer takes advantage of chances to throw with the primary receivers, while building chemistry with those who are hoping to stick with the team.

“The way I always view it is you’re one play away from being the starting quarterback, so I always try to take that mentality whether it’s game preparation, practice, mental reps, and things like that. I wouldn’t say that my mentality has changed since I’ve been here,’’ Hoyer said.

While being a starter is the goal, Hoyer said he knows his role with the Patriots is to be ready just in case.

“I’m in a great situation now,’’ he said. “So I don’t ask for things to be any different. I’ve learned from great coaches and great players here. It’s a veteran-led team, so you learn how to be a professional here. I’m really happy with my time here and learning from people and it’s really been a blessing in disguise.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @monwalker.

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