New England's reputation for reclamation projects that involve putting aging
veteran stars into roles in which they can still succeed at a high level helped
land another defensive playmaker Aug. 15, when the team dipped into the late-career
legendary player pool to sign nine-time Pro Bowl safety John Lynch. It turns
out the second time is a charm in Bill Belichick's pursuit of the hard-hitting
safety, who nearly joined the Patriots four years earlier when he was released
by the Buccaneers and eventually wound up in Denver.
"I am excited to have John on the team. He is a guy I have admired for
a long time -- his playing style and his production," Belichick said. "He
has been a great player with different organizations and with nine Pro Bowls.
I had the opportunity to coach him in Hawaii a couple years ago. I have a lot
of respect for John, the way he plays and the way he prepares."
Apparently, that long-standing admiration has been mutual.
"This was a place where it nearly happened four years ago when I went
to Denver. I was extremely impressed and always have admired this organization
from afar," Lynch said, still wearing his familiar No. 47 jersey after
his first training-camp practice. "You come out here, and you have star
players all over -- Randy Moss to Tom Brady, to (Mike) Vrabel, (Tedy) Bruschi,
Rodney (Harrison), you can go on and on, (Richard) Seymour, (Vince) Wilfork,
but to me, the thing that has impressed me the most is the way they play the
game. I think they play it the right way. They embody the sense of team as well
as anyone. That's led to the success. I think everybody in the league wants
to be a part of that. Never did I think ... I thought Denver would be my last
stop, but things happen, and I'm happy to be here."
Lynch spent the last four years in the Rocky Mountains, earning four straight
Pro Bowl berths. He was reportedly going to be used in a more limited, early-down
role with the team this year, a process that began in training camp. He subsequently
asked for his release, a wish that was granted by Mike Shanahan and Co. July
Lynch joins a safety mix in New England that includes returning starters Harrison
and James Sanders, as well as versatile budding sophomore Brandon Meriweather.
Harrison has missed the bulk of training camp, starting out on PUP and practicing
only sparingly. Sanders has also missed significant practice work and has been
limited in his reps with the top defense since his return. Add in the season-ending
injury to free-agent addition Tank Williams and what looked like a deep spot
on the depth chart might be seen as a bit tenuous heading toward the opener.
That's where Lynch, who signed a reported one-year, $1.5 million deal with
the team, fits in. He might not fit into the offseason New England mantra of
getting younger and faster on defense, but he certainly brings an impressive
resume. And while his numbers haven't been as impressive of late, Lynch brings
an open mind to both his role in New England as well as his approach to learning
"I think you produce and things like that happen, so that's what I'll
do," Lynch said when asked if he was still an every-down player. "I'll
just try to come out here and be the best I can be and see where that leads
"I'm looking forward to being here. I think, as I said, for all the reasons,
this is a place where they utilize veteran guys very well and when someone has
a track record you're interested in being a part of that. So I'm extremely excited
about being here."
One thing that's for sure, the back end of the New England defense won't lack
for experience this season with Harrison, Lynch and Co. manning the secondary.
How exactly it all comes together, now that's for Belichick, Dean Pees and Dom
Capers to figure out in the coming weeks.
"People want to be involved with success," Lynch summarized as to
why he and other players seem so interested in signing on in New England in
recent years. "The fact that they've been very successful, I think, makes
it a place where a lot of people want to be, but you also understand that what
they've done in the past doesn't really stand for a whole lot right now. We
have to create another season by going out there every day and working our hardest."
Sounds like Lynch already fits in with the Patriots way, at least off the field. Now he'll work to find a spot for himself on it.