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The second time around, it all worked for Daniel Fells and the Patriots

05.08.12 at 5:46 pm ET
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FOXBORO — For Daniel Fells and the Patriots, the second time was the charm.

The tight end nearly signed with New England in 2010 — he was ‘€œreal close, real close’€ — to joining the Patriots, but ultimately passed in favor of Denver. That experience helped him get a sense of how they do things in New England, and so when the free agent opportunity came around again this past offseason, he jumped at the chance.

‘€œI was able to come out here and just meet with the coaches and talk with the guys and see if it was a fit. It ultimately boiled down to a business thing. I let my agent handle things like that,’€ Fells said Tuesday during a break from workouts at Gillette Stadium. ‘€œAll things happen for a reason and it didn’€™t work out then, but things came full circle and it worked out for us this year.’€

He signed early in the free-agent process this year, and is happy to be with the Patriots. The 6-foot-4, 252-pounder has played five seasons in the league ‘€” three with St. Louis, one with Atlanta and one with Denver. Last season with the Broncos, he had 19 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns, a year after a 41-catch effort with the Rams.

Despite those numbers, the former college wide receiver understands that with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez on the roster, he may not get the same sort of chances in the passing game he had the last few seasons. That being said, when it comes to spreading the ball around, he knows Tom Brady is an equal-opportunity quarterback.

‘€œThey’€™re both real good tight ends. They went out there and they produce. They’€™re two of the top guys in the league,’€ Fells said of Gronkowski and Hernandez. ‘€œBut, traditionally, just looking at this offense, Tom’€™s going to find the open man, and that’€™s something that appeals to everybody.

‘€œI’€™m excited about that one. That’€™s pretty much the best way to say that: It’€™s Tom Brady. One of the greatest guys out there. I’€™m really looking forward to the opportunity to be out there on the field with him.’€

Fells will be joining his sixth team, and he’€™s learned a lot along the way. Some of those lessons were learned in Atlanta working with Alge Crumpler. Crumpler, who played one season in New England (2010), served as a valuable mentor to then-rookies Hernandez and Gronkowski. He did the same with Fells when they were together on the Falcons.

‘€œHe was like my big brother. A great guy. A true professional. I learned a lot from him,’€ Fells said. ‘€œAlge welcomed everybody with open arms.

‘€œHe’€™s the type of guy who had me over to his house for Thanksgiving. He had his family in town and I didn’€™t have any family in Atlanta and I wasn’€™t going home. He invited me over to his house and fed me. He made the Pro Bowl that year and took all his tight ends out to Hawaii with him. Paid for the flight and everything. That’€™s just the type of person that he was. Very giving and very humble about all his blessings. I just learned a lot from him.’€

It’€™s reasonable to assume that, in the spirit of Crumpler, the 28-year-old Fells could still manage to impart some of the wisdom he’€™s accrued to the Gronkowski and Hernandez, both of who are still just 22. For what it’€™s worth, he’€™s well aware of how both young tight ends roll, saying with a laugh, ‘€œI’€™m a little bit older. I’€™ve been around the block. I was young once myself, but now I’€™m married and have a son. Things change. Times change. They’€™ll grow up. They’€™re enjoying their youth right now.’€

For now, Fells knows that he’€™s got to worry about his own situation.

‘€œI can just go out here and be me. That’€™s the only thing and just be me,’€ he said. ‘€œThat’€™s what’€™s gotten me around the league. That’€™s what’€™s gotten me to the point of being able to play for seven years is just going out and being myself, being professional. Just doing my job.

‘€œAs far as guiding those two? Like I said, they are two great athletes, two great competitors. I don’€™t really need to guide them in that sense. I’€™m just going to go out here and try and fill in where I can.’€

Here are a few more highlights from his Q&A Thursday at Gillette Stadium:

How does your skill set translate from run-first offense to pass-first offense? ‘€œYou know what? I used to be a wide receiver. I converted from wide receiver in high school to tight end. I’€™m primarily more of a route runner, but over the years … especially last year, we became more of a run team. I like to think that I’€™m a chameleon. I can fit in and do whatever needs to be done.’€

On the nickname ‘€œRev’€ as a collegian: ‘€œWhen I first got there, that was right around the time that ‘€œRemember the Titans’€ had come out. My demeanor was a lot like the Rev. I wouldn’€™t say that it was any further than that. I am … I wouldn’€™t say that I’€™m a very religious person, but I have a belief, and I think that’€™s what it was.’€

On Tebowmania last year in Denver: ‘€œIt was a circus. Just like any circus, there’€™s good and there’€™s bad. It’€™s something you just took in stride.’€

What was bad? ‘€œThe media frenzy all day, every day. That can be somewhat of a distraction some times. But he’€™s just the type of person who takes everything in stride and he’€™s truly a genuine person so he almost brushed it off a little bit. He didn’€™t let all the hype and everything get to his head.’€

Is he an NFL QB? ‘€œI think he can be. Give him a little bit of time.’€

Is New England a 180 from Denver? ‘€œIn a sense, yeah. But this is a championship organization, so I didn’€™t really know what to expect. It’€™s something that I saw and welcomed the challenge to go to an organization like this and see how things are done right in this league.’€

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