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Garrett Mills knows full well that star power is ‘diffused a little’ in New England

08.22.11 at 9:08 pm ET
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FOXBORO — From the day he was selected by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft out of Tulsa, tight end Garrett Mills has been blessed to play with three of the most high profile quarterbacks of this or any era.

Mills, whom the Patriots signed on Sunday, entered the league playing with Tom Brady. He moved onto Minnesota when the Vikings claimed him off waivers, a move by then-Vikings coach Brad Childress that Childress said didn’t sit well with Bill Belichick. After three seasons there, including the final season spent with Brett Favre, he moved onto Philadelphia at the start of the 2010 season, where he played in seven games, starting three, catching two Michael Vick passes for 19 yards.

He was waived and picked up by the Bengals, where he played the final two games of the season with Carson Palmer.

So, when asked the impact of stars coming to the Patriots like Chad Ochocinco, with whom he teamed last year, to go along with defensive stars Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis, Mills thinks the Patriots are perfectly suited to not only cope but succeed.

“I think in this locker room star power is kind of diffused a little bit, and it’s a good thing,” he said Monday before his first practice back with the Patriots since 2006. “That’s one thing I appreciate about this organization is everyone is in it to win. It’s definitely a team perspective here.

“Obviously, starting off here, spending my rookie year here and playing with some great players, Tom, and being able to play with Brett in Minnesota and last year with Vick so I’ve been around some good players and tried to learn a lot from them.”

After being listed as inactive for the first nine games of his rookie season in 2006, Mills finished the year on the injured reserve list with hip and thigh injuries. He was waived by the Pats at the end of training camp in 2007 and was claimed off waivers by Minnesota.

That was when reports surfaced that the Patriots had released him and had a gentleman’s agreement with the Vikings among others, to not claim him so the Patriots might add him back to their practice squad shortly thereafter. Childress went so far as to tell WCCO-AM in Minneapolis that Belichick was upset with him.

But Mills handled that question very smoothly Monday, when asked if he remembered the bizarre circumstances around the transaction.

“No, not really,” he said. “They released me and I was claimed and I was on the plane the next day but it’s good to be back, though.”

After two seasons seeing limited action for the Vikings in 2007 and 2008, he split the 2009 season between the Minnesota active roster and practice squad but did not see any game action.

Admittedly undersized at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, Mills knows he has to show more than just a power game in the Patriots offense. And with big tight ends like Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Lee Smith already on the roster, there would appear to be a spot for someone like Mills, who has played primarily in the “West Coast” scheme since leaving New England.

“I think so. I’ve been in the West Coast the last four years, coming back to this offense, it’s slowly coming back and maybe even a little faster than I thought it would,” said Mills. “I came in as a rookie in ’06 and for any rookie, it’s a change, going from college to pros, it’s a transition. I learned a lot and it really set a foundation for my professional career and what to expect.

“Just becoming a smarter player. My skill set has hopefully gotten better since I was here last. I’m still a similar-type player but I feel like I’m much more experience and smarter player.

Garrett has played in 16 NFL games with three starts and has nine receptions for 110 yards. Now finally, he gets another shot with the team that drafted him and he couldn’t be happier.

“I think organizations might matter,” Mills added. “I feel like this is definitely a first-class organization and when they called, I was very excited.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, brad childress, Brett Favre, Carson Palmer
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