FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham would be the player most affected by Tom Brady leaving the team as a free agent this offseason, but he said that isn't part of his mindset as he prepares for his second season with the club.
"Right now, I can't really think too much about all of that. I have to worry about what I need to do to prepare to enhance my game, to learn as much as I possibly can," Stidham said from the Panini Rookie Closeout in California. "That's the biggest thing I've focused on, making a big stride from Year 1 to Year 2."
Brady, naturally, provided him a roadmap of how to do so throughout the 2019 season.
"It was priceless. It's going to be really cool one day when I can sit there and tell my children, or my grandkids one day, that I got to be in the same quarterback room and talking about coverages and different passing concepts with Tom," said Stidham, who was selected in the fourth round (133rd overall) out of Auburn and beat out veteran Brian Hoyer in training camp to be the top backup.
"He's a phenomenal teammate, a phenomenal person, obviously a phenomenal player. There was just so much that I got to learn from him. He was obviously very open to me about stuff that he's thought about the game of football, and stuff like that. It was great. I can't speak highly enough of that guy."
Brady's future is arguably the biggest story in the NFL this upcoming offseason, as he is scheduled to become a free agent on March 18 for the first time in his 20-year career. As part of a provision added to his contract in August, the Patriots can't assign him the franchise tag, which means Brady holds leverage that is uncommon for a player of his stature.
Brady recently told Westwood One radio that he didn't have a timeline for a decision, and that he was enjoying time away.
Brady became the first 42-year-old quarterback to start every game for an NFL team in the 2019 season, which meant Stidham, 23, had the opportunity to learn behind the scenes. Stidham didn't miss a practice all year, noting how he enjoyed competing against the Patriots' top defense, and took note of Brady's professionalism.
"The way he approaches things, his work ethic is unbelievable. The amount of time he puts into film and just game plan and understanding who we're playing, and personnel, all these different things that can come up throughout the week. That's something I obviously have learned from him, and something I'd love to incorporate as much into my game as I possibly could," he said. "The list is endless, but that's probably the No. 1 thing with him."
Over the 2017 and 2018 seasons at Auburn, Stidham was 470-of-739 for 5,952 yards, with 36 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
In the 2019 preseason in New England, he was 61-of-90 for 731 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception. Stidham appeared in three regular-season games, all brief stints with the outcome well in hand, totaling just 15 snaps.
That number could increase significantly if Brady doesn't return to the team in 2020, as the only other Patriots quarterback currently under contract is Cody Kessler.
Of his approach this offseason, Stidham said: "Obviously, I know what we're doing, and what we're trying to do, that sort of thing, but just kind of enhancing everything on my end, knowing every little detail, all the ins and outs. Obviously, Tom, he's been in this system for 20 years and knows it extremely well. I'm not going to get to that level quite yet, but trying to close that gap as much as I can, and to learn as much as I can, is my biggest goal."