Though he was signed by New England April 10, Wednesday was the first time defensive lineman Tommy Kelly met with reporters.
The longtime Raider is clearly happy to be with the Patriots, particularly after being part of an organization that went 45-99 in his nine seasons there.
But even though he received a two-year deal worth $5 million, Kelly isn’t taking anything for granted.
Asked if the potential to be in the playoffs was part of the allure in coming to New England, Kelly said, “Yeah. But you know, I have to make the team first. Bill [Belichick] doesn’t guarantee anybody anything. I have to make the team before I start thinking about that.”
Kelly chuckled as he said that, but he already has seen players sent packing.
“You see how many people they get rid of around here?” he said, his eyes widening. “Make the team first, then worry about all that.”
Listed at 6 feet 6 inches and around 300 pounds, Kelly has started 90 consecutive games; the last time he missed a game was in 2007. He prides himself on that durability.
“It’s big when you play D-tackle,” he said. “You have to be reliable. It’s a physically draining and mentally draining position. So when you’ve got a guy you know you can depend on, that’s what I pride myself on, is being dependable.
“And I’m going to give my teammates all I’ve got. If you’re out there with someone you can rely on, it makes your job much easier.”
Kelly projects to play alongside Vince Wilfork, and with Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick gone, he could see his role expand.
The Mississippi native has a healthy amount of respect for his new teammate.
“Oh, I love Vince,” Kelly said. “He makes my job much easier. He makes most of the line calls. It’s easy to play with somebody who’s got experience and can really, really play.”
Kelly said Wilfork is a lunch-pail kind of player: reliable, consistent, a guy who will be out there every Sunday.
Though he didn’t want to say much about his time with the Raiders, Kelly did shed some light on how he endured so many losing seasons (Oakland was 8-8 in 2010 and ’11, the closest it came to a winning record in his time there).
“At the end of the day, your film is your résumé,” he said. “So, you know, I don’t care what’s going on with the record. You’ve got to handle your business personally, or you won’t have a job in this league.
“NFL stands for ‘not for long.’ If you’re not handling your business, they’ll get rid of you real quick.”