Patriots Excited to Have Collins Back in Foxboro
FOXBORO — For a while, Duron Harmon was the last man standing from the Patriots’ 2013 draft class.
The other six members of the draft class had moved on from New England. Four were out of the league altogether. Logan Ryan was in Tennessee. And the top pick from the class, who developed into a Pro Bowl linebacker, had signed a lucrative deal in Cleveland.
But you can never rule out anything in the NFL.
Jamie Collins , once jettisoned from Foxboro at the trade deadline, has returned to the franchise that helped him become a star.
Needless to say, Harmon and the Pats are pretty excited.
“We all know Jamie, he’s a tremendous football player, (has) athletic ability through the roof,” Harmon said. “He’s gonna come in here, do what he do and earn his spot wherever it is and play hard and try to help us win football games.”
Harmon recalled the feeling of learning that Collins had been abruptly traded to the Browns in 2016.
“He was a Pro Bowler and second team All-Pro the year before,” Harmon said. “So any time that happens, you’re shocked. And I think more so just because it’s your friend. And I think that was probably one of the first real, like eye-opening experiences where I realized this is a business.”
Though it’s only been two and a half years since Collins left New England, he returns under much different circumstances. He arrived in Cleveland as a budding superstar. After a few underwhelming seasons, he lingered in free agency into the middle of May.
“There’s still talented players out there, you know?” Harmon said.
Now, Collins’ role becomes the question. The Pats are stacked at linebacker, with Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy returning as the top two players. Ja’Whaun Bentley was playing 63.3 percent of the defensive snaps before being placed on injured reserve in Week 4. Elandon Roberts turned in the best season of his three-year career in 2018.
Collins was an every-down player in his first stint with the Pats, but he’s unlikely to walk into such a role this time.
Still, there’s a lot to like about the reunion.
“Athletic ability, knows the defense, he’s excited to be back, so that’s always good when the excitement is there,” Harmon said. “I’m really just looking forward to seeing him out there, seeing him play with us again, building that chemistry, being teammates again and doing everything we can to make sure we got the best defense we can come the first game.”
A year ago, right guard Shaq Mason was entering the final season of his rookie contract. The Patriots and Mason were able to strike an agreement on a long-term deal prior to the season, tying the talented interior lineman to New England through the 2023 season.
This summer, left guard Joe Thuney is in the same position. Thuney’s rookie deal expires at the end of the 2019 season.
Asked if he’d like to follow a similar trajectory as Mason, Thuney said, “I’m just focused on what I control, and I’m just focused on being here. I love New England, it’s been awesome here and just trying to improve, get better and get ready for the season.”
A third-round pick in 2016, Thuney has never missed a start for the Patriots. He’s a perfect 48-for-48. He fit in from the start, and would be a valuable part of the franchise’s future if the two sides can work out a deal.
“I love it here,” Thuney said. “It’s great. The organization’s been awesome, teammates have been awesome. So absolutely no complaints from me.”
Thuney, Mason, and David Andrews are entering their fourth consecutive season as starters together on the interior of the New England offensive line.
“Shaq and David are great players and it’s been awesome to play next to them,” Thuney said. “We feel really comfortable with each other and see the game the same way and understand what’s going to be called before it’s even said.”
In Bill they trust
The offseason was filled with uncertainty regarding the Patriots’ coaching staff, especially after the out-of-nowhere departure of presumed defensive coordinator Greg Schiano.
The staff is all set now, and it appears as though Bill Belichick will handle the duties of defensive playcaller for the 2019 season.
The Pats are more than happy with that arrangement.
“I mean, coach Belichick, he’s coach Belichick,” Harrmon said. “If he’s calling the plays, we’re going to be all right.”
Harmon added: “This man was calling the defense for the Giants (in the 1980s) and they won two Super Bowls, coached Lawrence Taylor and stuff. I think if he’s calling the plays, I think he’ll be all right.”
Working with teammates Devin McCourty , Jason McCourty , and Matthew Slater , Harmon has spent time this offseason advocating for education funding reform in Massachusetts.
He’s visited the State House twice over the past few months to show his support for the PROMISE Act, which aims to overhaul the way public schools are funded.
Harmon also visited Tracy Elementary School in Lynn earlier this week.
“The disparity between one public school and another public school was just mind-boggling,” Harmon said. “Because my son goes to a public school — he goes to Elm Street School in Walpole — and to see the resources that he has and then see the resources that Tracy Elementary School has, it was crazy. I didn’t understand how a school literally 30 miles away could be doing so bad based on resources and my son’s school could be flourishing so much. I’m just trying to bring light to that, because it’s my job.”