FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Andrews adopts NE: In an offseason of significant change for the Patriots offense – with a new coordinator (Bill O’Brien) and O-line coach (Adrian Klemm) and top receiver Jakobi Meyers scheduled for unrestricted free agency -- the unit’s longest-tenured player has been busy.
Starting center and longtime captain David Andrews, set to enter his ninth NFL season, spent one morning last week reading to local elementary school students. The week before, he was at Boston Children’s Hospital visiting patients. And before that, he was reading in another local classroom.
He usually works out at Gillette Stadium in the morning -- where he’s been joined by fellow captain Matthew Slater, long-snapper Joe Cardona and left guard Cole Strange of late -- and then invests his time in the community and at home with wife Mackenzie, their 18-month-old son Ford, two dogs and a cat.
Andrews still proudly talks about his Georgia roots -- growing up in Johns Creek and playing in 50 games for the University of Georgia -- but his routine reflects how he’s officially become a year-round New Englander. He’s one of a handful of players who have made the region his permanent home, something he never would have imagined when he joined the team as an undrafted free agent in 2015.
“I can remember the first time Mackenzie visited, it was Memorial Day weekend my rookie year, and it was 45 degrees and raining. Back home, it’s usually beautiful and everyone is doing stuff, and she didn’t even bring a jacket. It was a mess and we were like, ‘What did we get ourselves into?’” Andrews said during a break at one of his community-based events.
“But when we came back our second year, we started settling in more, meeting friends outside of the football team. Then the third year, we said, ‘Let’s stay for the summer’ and it was like, ‘Oh wow, these summers up here aren’t too bad.’ And it just kind of snowballed from there. We sold our house in Georgia and bought one here. We have loved being here full-time.”
Andrews, 30, has grown to appreciate how a two-hour ride in any direction can lead them to a variety of different family adventures in multiple New England states.
“We try to do that as much as we can,” he said. “We were supposed to go to Maine [in February], but that got canceled; that was the weekend it was negative 20 [degrees]. The surrounding areas are so new to us; it’s something we never thought we’d be doing, but here we are 8-9 years later.”
Over that time, Andrews has also seen the evolution of the Patriots from a perennial Super Bowl contender (he’s won two Lombardi Trophies) to a franchise playing second fiddle to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East.
Coming off an 8-9 season in which he looked mentally and physically taxed by its end, Andrews said he’s as motivated as ever to help return the franchise to prominence. He acknowledges he’s “definitely getting up there a bit” in age, but that retirement hasn’t been a consideration and he hopes it won’t be for a while.
“I still get that feeling in the pit of my stomach every Sunday morning when it’s game time. When that feeling goes, that will probably be time. I still think of the game 24/7 and it’s hard for me to turn it off,” he said.
Andrews is optimistic about what’s ahead.
“I’m excited to get to work with Klemm. We’ve had a lot of changes in the O-line room -- coaching, player-wise, however you want to look at it -- and hopefully it’s something where you get there and it sticks and you build that foundation with him,” he said.
“I’m excited to learn how he sees the game and the things he can do to help me improve my game and our game as an offensive line and an offensive team. Obviously, there’s no contact now, so when we get going in OTAs and training camp, we’ll get to see that."
2. Belichick’s no-show: Coach Bill Belichick wasn’t planning to attend this year’s NFL scouting combine, a change from his normal routine. The decision is part of a growing trend among NFL coaches and Belichick’s longtime confidant, Michael Lombardi, shared insight when he said on his GM Shuffle podcast: “They’ve changed it because of television; most of the time it was workouts during the day, you watch players, then at night you had that interview time. …
“The way they’ve set the schedule up [now], the scouts are going to waste a lot of time there. There’s going to be a lot of afternoons where you’re back in the hotel room and you have to bring your tape with you. It’s hard. It was flowing better before.
“You’re better off leaving the coaches back there and working on something else. Then send the coaches on the road [to scout]. This is data-collection time, let the scouts collect the data, then once you get the data in, it goes up … in a pyramid effect.”
3. Patriots at combine: Patriots cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino helped with on-field drills at the scouting combine, while receivers coach Troy Brown was scheduled to do the same. Joe Judge and special teams coaches Cameron Achord and Joe Houston were the team’s other coaches in Indianapolis, joining director of college scouting Matt Groh and his staff. It was a lighter-than-normal coaching group, which might also be related to the staff having previously coached at the East-West Shrine Game.
4. Pass game/protections: Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said something last week that rings true for the Patriots, as both are transitioning at offensive coordinator and with a new O-line coach. “We have spent the majority of our time on protection and the pass game,” McCarthy said.
It’s essentially having answers for all the challenges defensive fronts present (e.g. when to provide offensive tackles with more help), which was an area of notable regression in New England in 2022. This is why the combination of O’Brien and Klemm -- and Belichick’s belief that they can help turn things around -- represents some of the most important moves of the offseason. If that’s what Patriots coaches are working on instead of attending the NFL scouting combine, it’s time well spent.
5. Patricia’s future: Broncos coach Sean Payton acknowledged that he interviewed Matt Patricia for the defensive coordinator vacancy that went to Vance Joseph, gushing about him and leaving the door open that he could still join the franchise in a different capacity. The key question is what Patricia himself wants to do (e.g. coach, adviser, etc.). He’s been a major player behind the scenes in New England -- for example, in a leading role designing plans for ongoing expansion of the team’s facilities -- and there’s still plenty of work to be done in that regard.
6. Andrews on survey: The NFL Players Association anonymous survey of about 1,300 players generated media-based buzz last week, with the Patriots ranking 24th and at least one player noting the facilities are in need of a refresh.
Andrews hadn’t seen the survey when asked about it last week, sharing his perspective by saying: “Surveys can be skewed, guys can have different perceptions of things. I’m grateful of everyone in that building, everything in that building. I never thought I’d be in that building this long, so each day that key card works, when it lights up green, I’m pretty excited.”
Lombardi, on the GM Shuffle, said: “When I was at the Patriots [as an assistant to Belichick], we were getting three meals a day, which was great. The facility wasn’t great because it’s in a stadium; you don’t have any windows. But in terms of the giving to players, it’s awesome.”
7. Bolden’s workout: The Patriots had free agent slot receiver Slade Bolden in for a workout last week, and while there wasn’t an imminent signing, the sides are expected to keep an open dialogue as free agency unfolds. Bolden is one of Mac Jones’ closest friends from their time together at Alabama and also played one season under O’Brien, the Patriots’ new OC. The workout could be a tip-off that the Patriots are altering their view of what they want in the slot, going back to their old-school roots.
8. Wise’s wisdom: Patriots captain Deatrich Wise Jr., who read to elementary school students last week at the Patriots Hall of Fame as part of Read Across America Day, said his current book of choice is “Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. Wise relayed it’s about “being present in every moment” and that he’s learned “the person who knows other people is one thing, but the person who knows himself is the true sign of wisdom.”
9. They said it: “Workouts. That’s all I’ve been doing -- running, biking, lifting, sweating. And eating. I love eating.” -- the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Wise, a vegan, on his offseason
10. Did you know? The Patriots ended a 10-year streak of finishing in the top 10 for fewest points allowed (2012-21) after ranking 11th last season with 20.4 points allowed. The Patriots and Buccaneers (1996-2005) are the last two teams to reach 10 straight seasons in the top 10 for fewest points allowed.