FOXBOROUGH — For defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, he’s seemingly gone from one extreme to the other. In his first nine seasons in the NFL, all with Oakland, he was never on a team that made the postseason. Now he’s with the Patriots, who have been in the playoffs nine times over the past 10 seasons.
“Me personally, I’ve been waiting for this opportunity,” Kelly said. “I played nine long years out in Oakland. Enjoyed it, we didn’t win enough, but I still enjoyed my time out there. I’m late in my career, I want to have a chance to play for [a championship], so this was the best opportunity for me.”
Kelly also didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to play next to Vince Wilfork. Not only because of the physical presence the veteran defensive lineman provides, but the experience and knowledge of the system he can share.
“He makes it real easy. He’s been in the defense for so long, he knows it like [Jerod] Mayo, or Bill [Belichick], or Matty [Patricia] knows it, so it’s real easy playing next to the guy,” Kelly said. “Makes me real comfortable.”
Kelly has the reputation of being a durable defensive tackle (he hasn’t missed a game the last five seasons, starting all of them) who can get to the quarterback. He has 34 career sacks, and had his best two-year total in 2010-11, when he combined for 14 ½. Last season, Kelly only had one sack.
Even before signing with the Patriots, Kelly had an idea of what the team was like, courtesy of former Raiders teammate Richard Seymour, who played in New England before that. It’s helped with the transition.
“There’s really no surprise to it because I talked to big Rich while we were out there and he always told me how it was run,” Kelly said. “So I had a certain expectation level of how they do things up here.”
And how, exactly, is that?
“Either you get the job done, or [Belichick is] going to get rid of you and get somebody else in here to do it,” Kelly said. “I have no problem with how they run their program. It’s strictly business, you know where you stand with them. He laid out what he needed from me when he brought me in.”
Someone spending his first training camp learning a different system with a new team might not feel entirely comfortable. But Kelly appears completely at ease, and seems to know exactly where he can make a difference.
“Just do my job, whatever he asks me to do, whether it’s playing the run or crushing the pocket,” Kelly said. “Just do my job and don’t try to do more than what he asks me to do.”