Nobody can resist the story of a protégé taking on their former mentor. Unfortunately this week's game between the Patriots and Chiefs will be missing the luster of that back story, as Matt Cassel will miss his chance to take on Tom Brady due to injury.
In his place will be Tyler Palko, who entered the NFL undrafted in 2007 and has since done stints on practice squads and in the CFL. If you don't know his name, you aren't the only one. Bill Belichick describes his style as similar to Cassel's, and reveals that he has unsurprisingly done his homework on the young QB.
"[He's] the same type of guy - a hardworking guy that is smart, that has a lot of confidence - I think they have a lot of confidence in him." Belichick said of Palko. "He's a talented player, he was at Pitt and that's the reason why [Joe] Flacco transferred. I think that tells you something about him right there, that he beat Flacco out in that situation."
Brady was asked whether he was disappointed about Cassel not playing, given their past relationship. Brady responded,
"Well, just for him being injured. It sucks to be injured" he said. "There's nobody that goes through a football season and doesn't get injured - you just hope it isn't really a permanent injury. He's a tough guy - he's as tough as anybody I've ever been around. I was disappointed for him that he won't be able to be out there."
Another clear priority this week for the Patriots will be maintaining the defensive momentum and strides they made against the Jets in Week 10. More roster moves were made earlier in the work on the defense, including the release of Ross Ventrone and the singing of Marcus Cannon.
When asked about whether this was an indication that Cannon would be expected on the field on Monday night, Belichick vaguely responded that any player on the roster will be ready to play, but he can't say whether he will be on the field or not.
Meanwhile, Brady will be focusing on the Chiefs defense which happens to be coordinated by Romeo Crennel; also a high profile protégé, winning a few Super Bowls with Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Brady talked about his familiarity with their defensive style under Crennel.
"Yeah, it's what we do on defense so there's a lot of familiarity through training camp and every day in practice. It's really a 3-4 defense, they're very fundamentally sound. You can see the things that they're coaching every single week."
Both Brady and Belichick addressed the importance of Rob Gronkowski's contributions to the offense after another big week in the Meadowlands which featured 118 yards and two touchdowns by the sophomore tight end.
Belichick spoke about his chemistry with his quarterback and how the tight ends have functioned so efficiently within their offense.
"Those guys have developed a good chemistry - worked a lot after practice on their timing against our defensive backs and linebackers" aid Belichick. "I'd say Rob and Aaron [Hernandez] both, we expected both of them to be able to catch the ball and perform in the passing game and they've done that."
Brady added that he believes in the maturity of his young tight ends on the field; how they don't play like rookies.
When asked if he knew that there was a raffle in which he could actually win the opportunity to spend Christmas Eve with Rob Gronkowski, Brady lightheartedly responded, "Oh really? How do you get in on that?" But when the reporter told him he could stop by Gronk's locker the Qb quipped "I don't need any more time around him."
Perhaps a few more touchdown catches could change his mind?