Former Colts wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez was an honorary member of Patriots Nation before he signed on to actually join the team. You see, the oft-injured former first-round pick out of Ohio State was pulling for the Patriots against the Giants in Super Bowl XLI, while also hoping the team might give him a look once free agency opened this spring.
Like the Patriots, Gonzalez didn't have his wishes
answered on Super Sunday, but he did a few weeks later when he got the
call he'd hoped for from New England
The call actually came much sooner than even
Gonzalez expected, as he signed with New England on March 17, just four
days into free agency.
"The phone call early was great, and it was
somewhat surprising. But it was the one I was hoping to get, to be
honest," Gonzalez said recently at Gillette Stadium. "When I kind of
evaluated free agency and different teams and how I thought I would fit
culturally, as well as from an offensive standpoint, this was one that
I targeted. To have the interest be mutual, that worked out well.
"I'm excited to be here. It's probably the best
professional football environment there is, so I'm excited for the
opportunity. I love the east coast. I love this part of the country, so
I'm excited. I'm happy and just glad for the opportunity."
So excited, in fact, that he arrived in New
England on Palm Sunday - a fortnight after inking his new, one-year
deal - to start the all-important process of, as he dubbed it, getting
"immersed" in the Patriots playbook, system and overall style of doing
He'll have a better opportunity than most free
agents who land in Foxborough, for a number of reasons. For one, he's
used to working in a complex offense. His old scheme in Indianapolis is
among the more complicated in the NFL (at least it was when Peyton
Manning was there with Gonzalez). What's more, Gonzalez already has one
good friend on the team who can help him out - Patriots backup
quarterback Brian Hoyer. The two were high school teammates in suburban
"It's very odd," the Ohio State alum noted. "When
you leave high school, you certainly don't expect to kind of reacquaint
yourself with your high school quarterback in the National Football
League. I wasn't even sure I was going to play at Ohio State, let alone
in the NFL. It's cool, and it's nice to have kind of a familiar face
and somebody that you've known awhile. I've known his wife longer than
him. She was one of my sister's best friends growing up. There's
definitely a familiarity there that's nice and comfortable."
Though he has yet to connect with his new
quarterback, Tom Brady, Gonzalez is anxious to do so.
"I was joking with my friends - I have a very
strict Hall of Famer-only policy. Just stay with that group," he added
with a laugh. "It's good. It's wonderful, obviously. Quarterbacks make
receivers look very good, and hopefully I can get some opportunities
with (Brady). I'm really just looking forward to everybody getting back
in. Once we can get with the coaches and get the offense going and
things like that, that's my focus."
He's trying not to dwell on his NFL past so much
these days - a past that began with much promise (he was Indianapolis'
first-round pick in 2007), but has been plagued by numerous injuries.
The one-year pact he signed with New England may be an indication that
the team has some trepidation about his health status, but the fact
that he was one of the first free agents they targeted also says they
believe he has the talent to contribute.
But Gonzalez insists he's not out to prove
anything to anyone, although he does have a plan of attack.
"Honestly, every season I come up with a plan that
I think is going to get me to a point where I want to be at, and then I
go through that process and try to accomplish goals and things like
that," he explained. "And that's how I've approached everything. I've
never felt like I was proving anything to myself ... from a football
standpoint. No matter what I'm doing, I try and come up with a recipe
for success and go at it that way, and I've always been convinced that
if I do go through those steps, it'll result in what I want, so that's
kind of how I approach it. I'm not really a prove-it-to-myself kind of
"I've got it written out," he admitted with a
grin, but quickly added, "I'm not going to share it with anybody."
He was willing to share just one of those goals.
"Just to learn this offense as quickly as humanly
possible. I know just from watching that it's pretty complex, a pretty
involved offense, and the one in Indy was, too. So that part of it
doesn't worry me. But I do want to make sure when it's time to get on
the field and go through things that there's no hesitancy mentally.
Because I know if I don't know exactly what I'm doing, there's going to
be problems for me. It's a lot harder to play when you don't know what
That's true and if Gonzalez needs any proof he
need not look any further than the struggles that new teammate Chad Ochocinco had a year ago in his first season in New England.
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