The relationship between a starting quarterback and his backup can get dicey, but Tom Brady always has maintained a strong bond with his No. 2 signal-caller.
Obviously any backup quarterback wants playing time, but with a player like Brady at the helm, the No. 2 needs to know his role with the Patriots. Brady’s relationship with Matt Cassel, who served as his backup from 2005 to 2008, has remained strong since the Patriots traded the USC product in 2009. Cassel led the Patriots to an 11-5 record in 2008 after Brady tore his ACL in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs, and the two will square off for the first time this week when the Patriots travel to play the Minnesota Vikings.
“He’s always been one of my great friends,” Brady said of Cassel at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday. “He’s just a special guy, special friend. We’re great buddies. I’m so happy for him for what he’s been able to accomplish, but I hope we beat him up this week. It’s just the way it goes.”
Cassel said in a conference call with the New England media that he speaks with Brady every other week during the season, and that the two go golfing during the offseason. Their mid-season conversations became evident last year when Brady accidentally broke the news that Cassel was starting the Vikings’ Week 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in London.
Cassel has had an up and down career since leaving the Patriots, including 2010, when he made the Pro Bowl, and 2012, when he started just nine games and threw six touchdowns to 12 interception. Cassel was solid in nine games with the Vikings last year, and went 17 for 25 on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams for 170 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said that while Brady helped groom Cassel, the Vikings quarterback did just as much to push the Patriots’ starter.
“I think those two players really worked well together,” Belichick told the Minnesota media over a conference call. “I’m sure Matt had the opportunity to watch Tom and learn from Tom when he came into the league. At the same time, Matt was a very competitive and hard working player with a lot of talent. He pushed Tom, and I think he made Tom better — they made each other better. When Matt had an opportunity to play in the ’08 season, he came in, we won 11 games. Matt’s opportunity, he really came through for us in that season. I’m sure he learned a lot from Tom, but at the same time, he pushed Tom to work harder and be a better player himself. So it was really a great situation for our football team.”
Cassel said Brady taught him how to be a leader during their four years together.
“I just remember when I was probably in my first or second year, and I forgot a motion, and he got after me on it and, like, ‘You can’t make mistakes like that because you can’t be the guy who’s the leader in the huddle and try to tell people that they need to be in the right spot when you’re making mistakes.’ That’s stuck with me as I’ve always gone forward in my career,” Cassel said Wednesday.
Cassel sat behind Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart during his four-year career at USC, and 2008 was his first chance to grab a starting role since high school. Belichick said Cassel is “obviously a lot more experienced” now than he was when he played for the Patriots.
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