FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots won’t be the only winners on the field on Sunday when they play the Texans.
Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson is just eight months removed from the College Football Playoff title his team won at Clemson. According to the Texans, it’s only the second time in the BCS era that the quarterbacks for the reigning NCAA champion and NFL champion have played against each other.
“He was super-talented, obviously, in college,” said Brady, who got to see Watson when the teams held joint practices in West Virginia during training camp. “(It) was a lot of fun for me to see young, kind of aspiring players that really want to work hard and play the quarterback position at a high level. He looks like he has all the talent.”
Since winning the NCAA title, Watson was the No. 12 overall draft pick by the Texans. He entered the season as the backup to Tom Savage, but came off the bench in the second half and then started in a 13-9 victory over Cincinnati in Week 2.
In two games, Watson has completed 27 of 47 passes for 227 yards, one touchdown and one interception. So he was almost giddy to receive such compliments from Brady, who has thrown for 459 touchdowns and more than 60,000 yards while picking up five Super Bowl rings.
“Just having an opportunity to talk to him and get to meet him and hear those words is awesome,” said Watson, who was 4 when Brady was picked by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. “I’ve been watching Brady since I was a little kid. Being able to be in the vicinity of him and see him play live is going to be awesome.”
The only other time the quarterbacks from the reigning NCAA and NFL champions met in the next season was in 2011, when Cam Newton (Auburn) faced defending Super Bowl champion Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Here are some other things to look for in this week’s game:
Patriots: Rob Gronkowski is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game but insists he will play.
Gronkowski has been bothered by a groin injury and declared it was “nothing serious.”
“Am I good to go? Yeah, I’m good to go,” Gronkowski told reporters after Friday’s practice. “I’m ready.”
Receiver Danny Amendola is also listed as questionable. He missed last Sunday’s game against New Orleans due to a concussion.
“I feel really good. I had a strong week,” Amendola said. “It was rough sitting out last week. I was excited to get back out there this week, get back to work.”
Running back Rex Burkhead (ribs) was ruled out of the contest.
Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle, concussion), receivers Phillip Dorsett (knee) and Chris Hogan (knee), cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (groin) and Eric Rowe (groin), middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower, outside linebacker Elandon Roberts (thumb), safety Nate Ebner (shoulder) and special teams ace Matthew Slater (hamstring) are also questionable.
Defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (knee) was placed on injured reserve and defensive lineman Geneo Grissom was signed to the 53-man roster off the practice squad. Grissom was a third-round pick by New England out of Oklahoma in 2015 and appeared in 20 games for the team, including Super Bowl LI.
The Patriots filled Grissom’s spot on the practice squad by signing wide receiver Riley McCarron. The 24-year-old was released from the Houston Texans practice squad on Sep. 18.
Texans: Defensive end J.J. Watt will be playing with a broken left ring finger, but after missing 13 games last season following his second back surgery, he said this one wasn’t a big deal.
“I haven’t had use of that finger for a long time because I tore a tendon on it a few years back on it,” the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year said. “So it wasn’t very useful anyway. I don’t really need it that much so it doesn’t bother me.”
Texans coach Bill O’Brien said cornerback Johnathan Joseph and receiver Bruce Ellington will be able to play, but receiver Will Fuller is out.
The Patriots and Texans have already played three times — one each in the preseason, regular season and playoffs — in the past 12 months. They also held joint practices in West Virginia during training camp.
“I feel like we’re almost back in the division here,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “We had great work with them down there in West Virginia, so we could really see up close how talented they are and how competitive they are.”
The Patriots held joint practices with Tampa Bay in 2013, and then beat the Buccaneers in the regular season — also in Week 3.