The Patriots moved quickly, beating three other teams to the door of former Dolphins RB Sammy Morris and quickly arranging a visit on the first day of free agency this past Friday.
"It was really a credit to (general manager) Scott Pioli and (head coach) Bill Belichick," Morris' agent, Mark Slough, told Scout.com Saturday evening.
Slough said the Patriots called just minutes after midnight to arrange a flight for Morris and his wife to visit New England. Roughly 10 minutes after the plans were confirmed, the Kansas City Chiefs called. And they learned that they would have to wait their turn.
"That's how close this crazy game of free agency is," Slough said.
And by the time the Eagles and the Jets called on Saturday, Morris was getting ready to sign the contract that Scout.com's Adam Caplan has reported to be a four-year deal worth $7 million. Morris will get $5 million in the first two years of deal.
Slough wasn't surprised by the Patriots interest in his client, and he thinks the signing is going to be a great fit for everyone involved.
"They've always respected Sammy's versatility and the fact that he's consistently been one of the top special teams players on his team no matter where he played," he said. "And Bill Belichick has done a great job of getting the best out of his players' strengths and I'm sure that will be the case with Sammy as well."
Shortly before his whirlwind experience of the last couple of days, Morris answered some questions about his experience in Miami this past year, turning 30 years old, and much more during an interview with Scout.com's Ed Thompson.
Ed Thompson: You posted a career-best 4.3 yards per carry rushing and your second-highest receiving yards total (162 yards) last year. What helped you get such good results?
Sammy Morris: I think a big part of it was just opportunity. The previous year there was so much disarray upstairs in the coaching staff and Ricky (Williams) had just left and the offense, so we weren't all that great. This time there are a lot of factors as far as if you have an opportunity, as a team and an offensive unit we were a lot better. And I learn something every year as far as working out and taking care of my body and eating right.
ET: You put up those great numbers even with a four-game suspension at the beginning of the year. Talk about the suspension and your thoughts on it…
SM: It was one of the toughest things I've had to deal with personally; not just in football, but in life. I think the hardest part was it was unjustly done. At the time I was in my seventh year in the NFL and I'd never had a question come up about my integrity or my stance on doing things the right way. I was documented as having Sudafed the day before and day of the test. There's still a lot of gray area as far as what the test results showed, so it was just kind of frustrating and a very trying time for me and my family. Based on the confidentiality rules and agreements I didn't have to say anything to anybody but when I took a visit to the Seahawks as an unrestricted free agent last year, we talked about moving forward with contract negotiations and I told them while I was on my visit that I had something pending -- even though I could have just kept it quiet and signed a contract and then said, "Oh, by the way I have a four game suspension that may happen next year." I didn't want to start a relationship with the Seahawks on a bad foot. I believe in doing things the right way and that was what was so painful about those allegations and the actual suspension, that it was very unjustly done. I also could have just chosen not to appeal it and took the suspension. At the time there were three games left in 2005 so I could have sat out those three games then I would have only had to sit out one game the next year -- which would have been better for my upcoming free agency, But at the end of the day I just couldn't lay down and accept something for the sake of a business decision.
|(Getty Images/Brian Bahr)|
SM: Football is the ultimate team game. It's not like baseball where a pitcher can get everybody out and get the win. We just had some uncertainties at the quarterback spot. With Daunte's (Cullpepper) injury he kind of struggled at the first part of the year and tried his hardest to fight through it. Joey (Harrington) was thrown into the mix and it took him a little while to get going. It was hard for us to get any kind of continuity on offense, but as the situation presented itself we managed it the best we could. Daunte wished he could have done more and Joey wished the same. And even in the games that Cleo (Lemon) played, I know he wishes he could have done more. But we managed the situation and made the most of it. We didn't get as many wins as we wanted, but I do think we managed the situation the best that we could.
ET: One of your biggest games of the years was when you had 25 carries for 123 yards against New England. What was clicking for you that day?
SM: Our offensive line did a great job and I think Coach Mularkey did a great job of calling the plays and sticking with the run game. With the Patriots, you know it's going to be tough trying to run the ball, but we were able to get some things going and we were able to maximize the plays that were working. On a lot of those run plays we just executed better than they did. That was a great game for me personally and for the team to be able to consistently run the ball and eat up the clock.
ET: I have a two part question for you here: I noticed you have a birthday coming up in March and it's the big 3-0. Is that a big deal for you or is it just a number? And I ask that against the backdrop of noticing that this year in each quarter your numbers got better. So here you are a guy who's about to turn 30 and yet you seem to be one of those running backs that seems to get stronger as he goes on.
SM: As far as the way I carry myself and the way I work in the offseason, it's with the mindset of longevity and playing in this league as long as I can. I really didn't think much about it until Ricky (Williams) had retired. I'm planning on playing this game until I physically can't do it anymore or the love is gone. Whichever happens first, I just plan on doing my very best at training and keeping my body in shape. Eating right and getting enough sleep -- and doing the small things as well -- is what I've learned keeps you in the game and on top of the game. I really do train hard in the offseason and that's with the mindset that I want to be able to go cover a kickoff after running a fifty-five yard run. And that's the kind of things I want to do. I don't know if people realize it, but I'm actually still playing on the punt team while playing running back. So conditioning is a big thing for me.
ET: Another development that plays to your advantage is the success of the running tandem approach this year with two backs with slightly different skill sets. Both the Colts and the Bears had great success with a RB tandem. Describe what you would see your role as versus a guy you would be ideally paired with to create that same type of effect…
SM: It's very important that if a team chooses to go that route that they
have two guys that can compliment each other on the field and also get along off
the field. That's one thing you really need is two guys who aren't selfish and
have the team-first mentality.
Ed Thompson interviewed Sammy Morris by phone after he had flown back from signing his contract with the Patriots. Scout.com subscribers can listen in to the interview and find out how this deal progressed so quickly, what Morris did and who he met during his visit, what his role will be, and his thoughts on becoming a New England Patriot: