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Assistant coach Pepper Johnson parts ways with Patriots

01.21.14 at 11:20 am ET
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Pepper Johnson, who has been a defensive assistant coach for the Patriots since 2000, is leaving the organization.

The linebackers coach sent a statement to ESPN’s Mike Reiss on Tuesday, two days after the team’s season-ending loss to the Broncos in the AFC championship game.

“Today marks a new day for me. Today is a new day full of promise and hope. It is also a day to reflect, as I embark upon a new journey. Today is the first day in 13 years that I am not a part of the New England Patriots, although I will always be a Patriot in my heart. Today also marks the first day in 26 years that I am not working in some capacity with one of greatest head coaches of all time, as well as my friend, Bill Belichick.

“Football is my life. From putting my body on the line, my hand in the dirt, to teaching others to do the same, this will continue for me. … I have big dreams and goals and they all involve football. So as I soak in this new day and embark on wherever my new path takes me, I shall embrace this new chapter in my life.

“I thank the entire New England Patriot organization for the last 13 years of my life. I am proud of all the things we have accomplished. The Kraft family is one of a kind and I will always be grateful to them and hold them in the highest regard. Bill Belichick and I have been working together in some capacity for 26 years and I am who I am because of it. To have five Super Bowl rings (two as a player, three as a coach) and all of them with Bill has been a blessing. I could never have asked for a better coach/boss/friend in those 26 years. Thanks for always supporting me and I know Bill will continue to support me no matter what.

“Thank you New England Patriot fans; I will miss you the most.”

Johnson, who won two Super Bowls as a linebacker with the Giants when Belichick was an assistant coach under Bill Parcells, also played for the Browns, Lions and Jets before retiring after the 1998 season. He joined the Patriots as assistant linebackers coach in 2000. He was the team’s inside linebackers coach from 2001-03, the defensive line coach from 2004-11 and the linebackers coach the past two seasons.

Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork released a statement on Twitter, reading: “Pepper Johnson will always be a part of my family. One thing about football is the bonds you make that go beyond what team you work for. In my 10 years of being a NEP he has always been a constant and a hell of a coach. But change is also a constant in life. All good things must come to an end. I wish him nothing but the best and I know he will continue to have an impact on football. It’s been an honor to be with him my entire career.”

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