Burgess prepared to stand up, and out
FOXBOROUGH - Derrick Burgess’s first reaction to the news that he’d been traded to the Patriots says a lot about Burgess and the plight of his prior team, the Oakland Raiders.
All Burgess could think of when he was informed was, “They’re winners.’’
Winning is something the eight-year veteran didn’t get to experience much with the Raiders, who posted an aggregate 15-49 mark during Burgess’s four seasons.
“That’s why I’m here - I’m about winning,’’ Burgess said yesterday, following his first practice with his new team and a new lease on NFL life.
“What happened in Oakland, man, it’s behind me. It was tough. We play this game to win. It had to be rough, but I’m here now, so it doesn’t really matter.’’
Burgess was a defensive end in Oakland. But the Patriots hope the 6-foot-2-inch, 260-pound Burgess can fill the void they have for an outside pass rusher opposite Adalius Thomas. They are hoping he can recapture the form he displayed in 2005 and 2006, when he made back-to-back Pro Bowls and recorded 27 sacks, including an NFL-leading 16 in 2005.
Burgess played a little bit of 3-4 outside linebacker in Oakland, where the defensive coordinator was former Patriots linebackers coach Rob Ryan. According to former Raiders defensive line coach Keith Millard, the team had a package called “Joker’’ that featured Burgess as an outside linebacker.
Burgess was a joker when asked whether he could “stand up,’’ pigskin patois for being able to play 3-4 outside linebacker.
“I’m standing up now,’’ said Burgess, drawing laughter. “Whatever they need me to do. I will do. Whatever I need to work on.’’
Burgess confirmed he had a little 3-4 experience, but said he has a lot of work to do to catch up to the players who have been in the system.
“It’s a new system, new team, new terminology, and all that,’’ said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, “but we spent quite a bit of time with him this weekend and tried to bring him up to speed as much as we can. So, he has some catching up to do, too.
“I’m glad we have him here. I’m sure he’ll be competitive to help our team.’’
Belichick, who coached Burgess in the Pro Bowl following the 2006 season, thought high enough of him to send Oakland two 2010 draft picks. The Raiders received a third-round pick and will get either a fourth-rounder or a fifth-rounder (if the Patriots acquire one).
Belichick left a positive impression on Burgess with the way he was treated the Pro Bowl.
“I was very impressed by him,’’ said Burgess. “Just the way he came to the Pro Bowl. It’s a fun time, but he had the desire to win, which I did, too. I like that about him.’’
Winning is not a totally foreign concept to Burgess, who said he was shocked and happy about his trade to the Patriots.
He spent his first four seasons in Philadelphia. Despite missing two seasons to injury - in 2002 he missed the regular season with a foot injury but returned for the playoffs; in 2003 he was out for the year after tearing his Achilles’ tendon during the preseason - Burgess played in three NFC Championship games and in Super Bowl XXXIX, which the Eagles lost to the Patriots.
His overwhelming desire to win overrides any concern Burgess, who turns 31 Wednesday, has about being in the last year of his contract. Burgess is slated to carry a $2 million base salary this season.
“I’m here to play and help this team and do the best I can to help them,’’ Burgess said. “I’m not worried about a contract. I’m not worried what will happen after the season. I’m worried about right now.’’
Burgess had been trying to get out of Oakland all offseason, boycotting voluntary workouts, sitting out minicamp with “sickness,’’ and holding out of training camp.
Patriots quarterback Andrew Walter, another Oakland refugee, said he told Burgess, “Congratulations,’’ when he saw him Saturday.
The true meaning of that salutation is something only a former Raider would truly understand.
Burgess’s job in New England will be to get quarterbacks in his clutches, but he already has grasped what it means to be a Patriot.
“It means a lot,’’ said Burgess. “The winning that goes on here, just the attitude around here. It means a lot because I’m big on winning ballgames. I’m ready to do whatever it takes.’’