Among the handful of new offensive skill players the Patriots have signed since the start of free agency is former first-round pick and Colts receiver Anthony Gonzalez, who has missed all but 11 games over the past three seasons due to knee injuries and a slide down the depth chart.
Heading into his sixth season, Gonzalez could bolster the Pats’ depth in the slot position. He met with reporters this morning just off the Gillette Stadium turf; he’s been in Foxborough for over a week, eager to get here to immerse himself in a new playbook and acquaint himself with his new teammates.
“I’m excited to be here. It’s probably the best professional football environment there is, so I’m excited for the opportunity,” Gonzalez said. “I love the East Coast, I love this part of the country, so I’m excited. I’m happy and just glad for the opportunity.”
During his own pre-free agency research, Gonzalez said he targeted the Patriots as a team he’d like to land with, citing the team culture, winning history and offense as reasons why.
“The success part, for sure. That speaks for itself,” he said. “Just being in the NFL and being on the other side of that (Pats-Colts) rivalry for a while, there’s not a hatred or anything. It’s more of a respect. As you learn more about the teams you’re playing, especially this one, you kind of get an appreciation for how they do things. Just the way the (organization is) run and that sort of thing, to me it’s the perfect fit in a lot of ways.”
Gonzalez chatted near the north end zone, in the shadow of Gillette’s lighthouse; he came out of the large door near that spot, just as the Pats do when they come onto the field during games. Visitors enter near the south end zone.
He remarked that it was odd walking into the stadium from a new direction and getting a new vantage point on things.
When the Patriots begin full-team practice sessions, Gonzalez will be the third player to be on receiving end of passes from both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, joining Jermaine Wiggins, Dan Klecko and Marcus Pollard (Pollard was with New England during training camp in 2008).
“I was joking with my friends – I have a very strict Hall of Famer-only policy. Just stay with that group,” Gonzalez said, smiling. “It’s wonderful, obviously. Quarterbacks make receivers look very good, and hopefully I can get some opportunities with him (Brady). I’m really just looking forward to everybody getting back in. once we can get with the coaches and get the offense going and things like that, that’s my focus.”
Gonzalez has not gotten the chance to speak with Brady yet, but he has gotten to talk with his old/new teammate Brian Hoyer – he and the Pats’ top backup QB were high school teammates at St. Ignatius in Cleveland.
From watching New England play, Gonzalez knows it is a complicated offense, though he adds that it was complex in Indy as well, so the difficulty factor doesn’t bother him.
However, “I do want to make sure when it’s time to get on the field and go through things that there’s no hesitancy mentally. Because I know if I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, there’s going to be problems for me. It’s a lot harder to play when you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Gonzalez joked that he hopes Michigan man Brady doesn’t hold it against him that he went to fierce rival Ohio State.