The following is Jamin Elliot's description of the past year.
I think it was only a matter of a day or two before my agent called me and told me that there was definite interest from New England. The Patriot's financial package was generous and I signed on the spot. Sure, it was hard to leave my friends on the Bears, but the opportunities in New England certainly outweighed any hesitations I might have felt at the time.
It's easy to understand why New England has won 2 of the last 3 Super Bowls. I've never seen such thorough preparation on the part of a coaching staff. I'd heard that Coach (Bill) Belichick was precise, but this was amazing.
There are always some plays for the final two minutes. You learn what to do when you are 40 yards from the other team's end zone, or when the half is winding down and you have the ball but it's too far for a field goal.
But that wasn't nearly enough for Belichick. He left nothing to chance. There would be a specific drill if it was second and twenty and you were on the twenty-five with 45 seconds in the first quarter. Every possibility, every play, every second was charted out. It was amazing. I've never seen work that was more detailed.
Every coach on the team operated that way. Nothing was left to chance. The end result was that nothing took the team by surprise. They were always confident, always prepared.
It was a lot to learn but that knowledge came in handy as I played in four regular season games for the Patriots.
One thing that truly impressed me was the overall character of the players on the Patriots squad. It was almost what I would call spirituality. They were guys with high standards. You can certainly see that in Tom Brady, but it was also true for the rest of the squad. Players would meet for Bible study groups. We'd have family get togethers.
That unity helped as we got to the playoffs. It built a real strength in the team. Communication was excellent both on and off the field. There was a continuity of purpose that made a tremendous difference in the outcome of the games. It was quite a contrast to what had been going on with the Bears when I left.
Now I am heading back to Halas Hall. I haven't met any of the new coaches yet, but I've certainly been hearing good things from the players on the team. I'm planning to be in Chicago near the end of March, just before the first mini-camp. It will be great to see everybody again and to find out about what's happened in my absence.
The Bears organization stressed that they wanted me back, that I would be an excellent fit in the new system and I believe that. They were generous in their signing bonus and they made me feel that they can see me as an eventual impact maker. That's all I wanted all along, to be able to contribute in a positive way on a regular basis.
From what I hear, there is a new spirit of optimism at Halas Hall. Players see opportunities that maybe weren't there before. It's going to be a real adventure. The Patriots were exciting and it was a wonderful experience. I learned so much about playing at a higher level. And the Super Bowl experience, who wouldn't want a year like that? It was unbelievable and something that I'll never forget.
But now I'm coming back to Chicago. That's a very good thing as well. I felt terrible when I was cut by the Bears, but now I'm returning with a Super Bowl ring. It doesn't get much better than that.