In March, Danny Amendola signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Miami Dolphins that brought his five-year stint in New England to a close. He left the Patriots with two Super Bowl rings — as well as plenty of stories about Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and counterfeit currency.
Amendola told a few of those tales on the “Comeback SZN” podcast, presented by Barstool Sports. The wide receiver, who caught 230 passes for 2,383 yards as a Patriot, contrasted his experience in Foxborough to what he’s felt so far in Miami. He acknowledged the Patriot Way wasn’t perfect, but noted he “got to play for the greatest coach of all-time, the greatest quarterback of all-time, and one of the greatest owners of all-time.”
Here’s what we learned from the podcast:
His new coach’s style is a refreshing change from New England
As a Dolphin, Amendola will take his cues from third-year head coach Adam Gase’s playbook. The relationship between signal caller and slot specialist has been a productive one so far.
“It’s worked out amazing,” Amendola said. “All the guys are cool. The team is cool. My group is cool. The coaches are awesome. Coach Gase is one of the guys. He’s our leader, he’s our head coach, but he’s also our boy. So it’s cool. It’s refreshing to have that kind of relationship with a coach, something I haven’t had in a long time.”
If any member of the New England Patriots has ever described Bill Belichick as “our boy,” they did so very quietly. Amendola recognized the difference between the culture he’s joining in Miami and the one he just left behind.
“Back in New England, it’s almost like you had a principal and a principal’s office and s*** like that; in a good way and a bad way, too,” he said.
Amendola recently FaceTimed Gase just to talk to him and his kids. He said the pair hit it off as soon as free agency opened and he had the opportunity to speak with other teams. Amendola described Gase’s work ethic and ability to relate to his players, saying that a coach willing to “grind with the guys” will draw the maximum effort from his charges.
However, that doesn’t mean the receiver didn’t appreciate his time in New England. In addition to calling Belichick, Brady, and Robert Kraft all-time greats at their respective roles, Amendola said playing for the Patriots taught him how to win. He plans to take that experience and become a leader on his new team.
“I know what it took,” Amendola said. “And I know what it’s gonna take.”
The TB12 Method rubbed off on him
Tom Brady’s affinity for “Danny Playoff” is well-documented. Amendola was one of No. 12’s most-trusted targets, as well as a member of the crews Brady took to Montana and the Kentucky Derby (more on that in a bit).
All that time with Tom converted Amendola into a disciple of the TB12 Method. He watched Brady create a lifestyle for himself, from his approach to the game on the field to his around-the-clock dedication to recovery and diet.
“He’s really kind of instilled that in me,” Amendola said. “I’ve watched him do it for five years so that’s inadvertently changed the way I approach the game from a health standpoint — what I put in my body, in the weight room. It’s just a testament to how good of a friend he is, how good of a guy he is, how good of a teammate he was.”
The 32-year-old had a simple description for his friend and mentor.
“He’s the GOAT,” he said.
His first phone call from Bill Belichick’s was his introduction to the Patriot Way
The Patriots signed Amendola to a five-year, $31 million deal in 2013. Heading into free agency that year, Amendola wanted a $30 million contract and — after a fairly bizarre sequence of events involving Las Vegas, a sauna, and tonsillitis — he had that with a million to spare.
Reality came crashing back when he heard the voice of his new coach on the other end of the line.
“Get your ass to Foxborough and ink this up,” Amendola recalled Belichick saying. “We’re not having a press conference. We don’t give a s*** about that. Get in here.”
That’s when he realized that New England is all about the work.
“No glitz, no glamour,” Amendola said. “It’s just about playing good football and the Patriot Way.”
Wes Welker brought half-a-million dollars in fake money to the Kentucky Derby
Amendola’s best on-field memories from his Patriot days came during playoff games in front of the Gillette Stadium crowd. His favorite off-field ones? Those don’t require rose-colored glasses. There were more than enough mint julep glasses to do the job.
Brady often invited a few teammates to fly on a private jet for a post-Super Bowl trip to the Kentucky Derby. When the jet landed, a handful of local Louisville police officers would pick up the traveling party. That made life a lot easier for the rest of the weekend.
“For three or four days we could literally do whatever we wanted with cops by our side,” Amendola said. “It was a unique atmosphere. Obviously Gronk and Jules being there spiced s*** up a bit. When you’re with Brady, it’s just like, every head in the building turns and he changes the energy in any room. So it’s fun. It’s adult fun. And it was an eye-opening experience to say the least.”
The receiver laughed as he reminisced about one trip to Churchill Downs during which he never even saw a horse. Brady’s crew was too busy turning the buttoned-up race into a dance party. Wes Welker brought along a portable boombox, along with $500,000 in counterfeit cash. He stacked the money on the table so everyone around thought it was real, then proceeded to hold a karaoke contest in what Amendola described as the “most distinguished area of the Derby.”
“It was electric,” he said.
As for Rob Gronkowski, another one of the Patriots aboard Brady’s jet, Amendola noted that being one of the best-ever tight ends gives one a little leeway to have a good time.
“Gronk knows how to spice s*** up,” he said. “He can do it because he can always back it up. He’s bar none one of the best football players that’s ever played the game.”
He’s not a huge fan of how the Patriots do business
During his five years in New England, Amendola took pay cuts in three consecutive seasons. He thought that would pay off when he reached free agency this offseason, but that’s not how Belichick operates.
“I came in with an open mind,” Amendola told ESPN in April. “I understand Bill [Belichick] runs a tight ship, and he hasn’t been known to pay his players, really. I understood that I gave money back to him so I could play for him and play for my teammates and fulfill my side of the contract, and at the end of the day, I had faith that he was going to give me an opportunity to stay.”
However, when free agency opened, he realized the Patriots weren’t going to come close to the offers he was receiving from other clubs. So the receiver opted to take his talents to South Beach.
Amendola wasn’t alone in finding issue with the team’s recent handling of contract offers. Brady would reportedly “most certainly entertain” contract negotiations, while Gronkowski wants a restructured deal. Neither has come to fruition so far. That being said, Amendola noted the players are all able to separate the business and personal sides of the sport.
“Personally, I can’t speak for Tom or Bill, but I know that regardless of business — I have mixed feelings about how business is done there — I know for a fact that Coach Belichick is one of the best coaches of all-time,” he said. “He has all of his players’ respect. I know that Tom would say the same thing. Gronk would say the same thing. Regardless of how they feel about their contracts… I know that they had a lot of respect.”
He also had a few qualms with Belichick’s decision to sit Malcolm Butler during the Superbowl.
“I don’t know the answer to [why that happened] to this day,” Amendola said. “[For] whatever reason, [Belichick] felt, you know, he’s the coach. I can’t make that decision. I can only do my job and focus on my job. But in hindsight, it’s like, ‘Really, what agenda are we on?’ It’s something that I will probably never really understand.”