FOXBOROUGH — Bobby Carpenter’s NFL journey has zig-zagged the linebacker across the country, from Dallas to St. Louis, Miami to Detroit.
Now, he’s landed with the Patriots.
Before his free-agent signing this April, Carpenter’s only experience with New England was watching coach Bill Belichick in press conferences. He knew a couple players and occasionally watched the team on television.
“Other than that, I didn’t know,” said Carpenter, a first-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2006. “It’s been exciting. We have a great team atmosphere. I was very pleased with how great the locker room was. We’ve got a tremendous group of players here. Not only that, they’re great people, so it’s been easy to get acclimated.”
Of those Carpenter previously knew within the organization, linebackers coach Pepper Johnson stands out. Johnson’s son, Dionte, played with Carpenter at Ohio State. He too is a former Buckeye, a 1986 graduate who played on two Super Bowl-winning teams with the Giants.
So the high praise Johnson had for his new linebacker is coming from a trustworthy and familiar source.
“He’s a workaholic, he’s constantly going, you have to slow him down on the field,” Johnson said. I don’t want to slow him down. He goes constantly. He’s going to be a plus for us. He already has been a plus.”
Known for the derisive nickname, “Barbie Carpenter,” affixed to him by tackle Marc Colombo during the Cowboys’ tenure on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” Carpenter last played with Detroit, where his pick-six in Week 4 helped spark a 34-30 win over Dallas. But he played sparingly all season, finishing with 20 tackles.
“Bobby’s been here all spring, worked hard, good athlete, smart guy, has some experience,” Belichick said. “He’s done some different things in his career, played inside, played outside, pretty versatile player in some different organizations. We’ve asked him to do some different things. Mentally, physically, experience wise, he looks pretty comfortable.”
With Belichick unexpectedly cancelling the Patriots’ final minicamp practice on Thursday afternoon, Carpenter said he planned to return home to Columbus to be with family.
“You want to obviously stay sharp mentally, go over the book, make sure you know what you’re doing,” he said. “But also you want to stay in shape physically. I think these next five, six weeks make a big difference going into training camp, how well you can prepare, what you’re doing physically, what kind of shape you’re in, how strong you are.
“Some guys take some time off. If you can find a way to get an edge over these next six weeks, it will pay dividends come training camp and the end of the season.”