THOUSAND OAKS — Twelve summers ago, Tom Brady was the thirtysomething quarterback of the New England Patriots and Kevin O’Connell was a rookie quarterback looking over his shoulder.

Neither could have imagined where they will be Monday night when the Rams face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

Brady, 43, is still playing, leading the Bucs. O’Connell, 35, is the Rams’ offensive coordinator and quarterback whisperer.

O’Connell is wiser for what he learned as a teammate of one of the greats for parts of 2008 and 2009.

“I chose to use it as an opportunity to be seen and not heard, listen to everything, be a sponge,” O’Connell said Friday, referring to his time as a backup to Brady and Matt Cassel, working with Patriots coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

“I really reflect on that time and think back to maybe some things I could have done differently, but I also reflect on that time and (realize) it created a big-time part of who I am from a football identity standpoint.”

O’Connell, drafted in the third round after a late-blooming career at San Diego State, wound up playing behind Cassel after Brady’s knee injury wiped out the 2008 season for the already three-time Super Bowl winner.

His six passes (four complete) late in a blowout win and a loss ended up being the only official action of his career. The Pats released O’Connell before the 2009 season, a surprise. He tried but failed to stick with four more NFL teams before taking up coaching.

Brady was a living textbook on how to be a pro quarterback.

That’s part of the knowledge that O’Connell tries to pass along to Rams quarterback Jared Goff, even if the coach doesn’t explicitly say, “Tom Brady did it this way and you should too.”

“There’s so many things that you can take away from watching somebody who plays at that level,” O’Connell said after practice. “It could be something as little as the nuances of (reading) coverages. Maybe it’s a footwork thing, an aspect of playing with the proper balance and pocket presence, of being able to play with a quieted lower half in the pocket.

“Although he (Brady) may not be a super-mobile guy – he probably would be the first one to tell you that – he’s probably as elite as anybody within the pocket and being able to move within the pocket and still maintain a full-field progression (looking for receivers).”

The fact that Brady is playing in his 21st season and pursuing his seventh Super Bowl ring with his second franchise, while O’Connell already is in his sixth year of NFL coaching with his fourth franchise, is amazing and amusing. Typically, O’Connell draws a lesson from it.

“I don’t think people talk enough about the work it takes to constantly stay prepared to play at such a high level,” O’Connell said of Brady’s longevity. “Just the overall attention to detail with which he plays the position.

“I think a lot of quarterbacks and a lot of players at a lot of positions have taken a lot out of watching him as a teammate or from afar as an opponent.”

O’Connell’s concern in 2020 is helping head coach Sean McVay kick-start the offense as the Rams (6-3) prepare to face the Bucs (7-3). O’Connell was encouraged by Goff’s 27-for-37, 302-yard performance in the Rams’ 23-16 victory over Seattle last Sunday.

“Overall, I thought he ran the show with real authority. It was a game to build off of,” O’Connell said.

But seeing Brady on Monday will spark memories of 2008, when at least one of them was young.

“From Day One, you’ve become a teammate of one of the great quarterbacks to ever play the position,” O’Connell said of that time. “(It) was really something special for me.”

NOTES

Aaron Donald isn’t ready to proclaim this year’s Rams defense the best he has played on. “Let’s finish this season and see,” the All-Pro defensive tackle said in response to a question Friday. “Right now we’re doing some great things, some things from a consistent basis, that I don’t think I’ve been involved in (before). We’ve got to just keep working, keep getting better, keep dominating.” Through 10 weeks, the Rams’ defense ranks second in points and yards allowed. It hasn’t finished in the top eight in either category in Donald’s six previous full seasons. … Matt Gay, the kicker signed off the Indianapolis practice squad on Tuesday, is scheduled to join the Rams on Saturday and audition to be the replacement for injured Kai Forbath. Sean McVay said practice squad kicker Austin MacGinnis has been practicing well, but “nothing is set in stone, and we’re going to be open-minded when Matt comes in here.” … Seattle’s victory over Arizona on Thursday night didn’t change the Rams’ position in the NFC West standings (second) or the conference playoff seedings (sixth among seven qualifiers if the season ended now). The Rams (6-3) are one-half game behind the Seahawks (7-3), who lead the division, and one-half ahead of the Cardinals (6-4), who are third in the division and seventh in the playoff race. … All Rams players practiced Friday except backup center Brian Allen, who has swelling in his surgically repaired knee, McVay said.

New England Patriots quarterbacks Tom Brady, right, and Kevin O’Connell warm up before a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 13, 2009 in Philadelphia. “I don’t think people talk enough about the work it takes to constantly stay prepared to play at such a high level,” O’Connell, now the Rams’ offensive coordinator says of Brady’s longevity. “Just the overall attention to detail with which he plays the position.” (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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