New Patriots tackle Adrian Clayborn talks about overcoming adversity

"Take the blows when they come and throw a couple back"

Adrian Clayborn
Adrian Clayborn reacts after sacking Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. –Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It’s a line of questioning we’ve heard quite a bit in New England since the final whistle blew on Feb. 4. How hard was it watching and not playing? Do you think you could have made a difference in the game?

This time it wasn’t Malcolm Butler being asked to answer. Adrian Clayborn, the Patriots new defensive tackle, suffered a torn biceps muscle in the 2017 divisional and missed the rest of the playoffs for the Falcons. He was on the sidelines as the Patriots scored 35 unanswered points in Super Bowl LI.

On a conference call Wednesday, Clayborn was asked if he felt he could have changed the outcome of that game.

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“I don’t know if I could have made an impact. I would hope so,” he said. “I mean, that’s my job to do every game, so I would hope I would have been able to make an impact in that game and possibly a different outcome.”

In a piece for The Player’s Tribune, Clayborn wrote that he felt ready to retire after the biceps injury. After talking to his wife and his agent, however, Clayborn said he chose to return to the Falcons. He had a career-high 9.5 sacks last season.

“I’m glad that I made that decision to come back,” he said. “Getting over that hump was a big one, dealing with my fourth injury, but I’m trying to play as long as I can – as long as this body lets me.”

Clayborn’s perseverance comes from a lifetime of overcoming adversity. He was born with Erb’s palsy, a condition that left him with nerve damage on the right side of his body and limited mobility in his right arm.

“I’ve learned to compensate when I have to, and I do what I’ve got to do to make the plays…Life happens. I mean, through the Erb’s Palsy or whatever of losing my dad and my brother, I don’t know – it just made me the person I am today,” he said. “Just got to take the blows when they come and throw a couple back at times. So, just learn how to fight and scrap and learn how to keep going.”

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Clayborn joins a Patriots defensive line that now includes Danny Shelton, Malcolm Brown, and Trey Flowers. He expects to play multiple positions with his ability to rush the passer and set the edge against the run. And what should Patriots fans expect from his playing style?

“Aggressive, hard-nosed – I like to play every play like it’s my last,” he said.