Chance to catch passes from Tom Brady played major role in luring Brandon LaFell to Foxboro
|03.19.14 at 6:38 pm ET|
When it came to the possibility of the Patriots landing free agent wide receiver Brandon LaFell, Tom Brady didn’t have to do any recruiting. Turns out, his mere presence was enough to lure LaFell to Foxboro.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver, who spoke with the New England for the first time Wednesday since signing a three-year deal with the Patriots, answered quickly when he was asked what went into his decision to depart Carolina.
“Because I had a chance to play with a Hall of Fame quarterback,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “One day, Cam [Newton] will be there probably, but he’s not there now. I felt like it was a better chance to come up here to get more balls and win up here than it was in Carolina. Nothing against those guys, it’s a great organization. Those guys are going to win, I can see them winning but it’s proven up here, man.
“We were winning last year in Carolina,” he added. “These guys were winning up here for the last 10-plus years, so why not come to a winning organization?”
LaFell recalled watching film of Brady and the New England offense last season, and recalls being amazed at the level of quarterback play.
“We were watching film last year when we were going to play those guys, (and) we were always like, ‘Man, those receivers have to put their hands up.’ No matter what route they ran, no matter how the guy was on them, if they just put their hands up, the ball was always in perfect placement,” he said.
“When you have a guy that can pinpoint the ball like he does year-in and year-out, it’s great.”
The 27-year-old LaFell is an LSU product who has been in the league for four years ‘ all with the Panthers ‘ and has 167 career catches, including 49 receptions for 627 yards and a career-high five touchdowns last year.
While he hash’t had the chance to connect with Brady face-to-face quite yet — he said they’ve traded texts the last few days because Brady is out of the country — he has spoken with another LSU teammate in running back Stevan Ridley, who was apparently pretty fired up about the possibility of lining up alongside his old friend.
“He was so excited. He was like, ‘You have to be lying to be right now,'” recalled LaFell. “He was like, ‘We have a bunch of young guys that play a lot of good ball, but we need another veteran that will step in and help those guys grow. You’re proven and this and that. You can be one of those final pieces of us, taking us to the next level.’
“He just kept saying the word sacrifice; sacrifice and hard work. ‘If you’re committed to do that with the rest of the guys, you’re going to fit in well and help us win games.’”
Here are some of the highlights of the rest of the Q&A:
Welcome to New England. What were the primary factors you were weighing and considering in making this decision?
First of all, thank you for welcoming me up here to New England. The primary factors in weighing in my decision to come play ball up here was the chance of getting the ball more and winning really because it’s a winning organization and I just really wanted to win.
Do you ever consider the group of receivers when you’re coming to a new situation? What also made you come to the decision to wear the number 19?
Yeah, you always, when you’re making a decision like this, changing teams, you’re always thinking about the guys you have to compete with and get a chance against the other guys and having the ability to play with their guys. [Julian] Edelman caught 100-plus balls last year and you don’t do that by being average, you do that by having a lot of challenge and being a good player and working. And [Danny] Amendola [is] a guy that when he’s healthy, he’s pretty good. I thought about that. That played a lot in my decision. I wanted to come be around a group of guys that put in work and that are just as good as me. Also, picking the number 19, it was either 10 and 19. When I think of the number 10, I just think of quarterbacks. I thought about Vince Young, I thought about RGIII [Robert Griffin III] so I didn’t want to be in that mind frame of a quarterback. Me and my boy Ted Ginn are real good friends and I decided to wear 19 just like he does.
It looks like you have some positional versatility or at least moving across the line of scrimmage a lot, playing inside and outside. Is there a spot that you feel like your skill set is best utilized?
Not really. I think I’m very versatile. Like you said, I can play inside and outside and it just depends on [where] these guys want to put me. I don’t care. If they want me to play outside, if they want me to play inside, I just want to be wherever the ball is going, I want to help this team win.
In a video on the Patriots website, Nick Caserio said you were someone the team looked at extensively when you came out of LSU. What was your experience with the Patriots like during the pre-draft prospect?
It’s crazy because throughout the whole draft process, I met with them at the combine and that was about it. I didn’t think they were that interested but everybody always told me that you go through the draft process, the team that shows you the least interest, that might be the team that picks you up. But that wasn’t the case.
Did you ever think you’d come here if you became a free agent based on the interest they showed in you coming out of college?
The craziest thing about it, I didn’t think I was going to hit free agency. I thought I was going to be in Charlotte forever but it didn’t happen. When those guys called me as soon as free agency started, I knew [inaudible] I was going to end up there. You just don’t call a guy up the first day [without] having a lot of interest in him.
Do you have any connection to New England through family or relatives? Have you ever been to New England?
I have never ever been to [Foxborough]. My fiancÃ© has family in Springfield and we went up there a couple times through college but that was the closest I’ve ever been to [Foxborough] was in Springfield, Mass. That was it.
What’s your background on special teams? What units have you played on with the Panthers?
My first few years, I started as vice on special teams. I played the vice on punt return my two first years. My rookie year, I played front line on kickoff return. I played those and my whole career I’ve been a backup punt returner, backup kick returner. I actually got a chance one time this year against San Fran.
One of your best games last season came against the Patriots. Would you agree with that opinion and what do you remember about that game?
I kind of agree that was one of my better games. I had a bunch of catches; scored. What I remember about that game ‘ it was a tough, hard game. Their defense, I think one of their best corners was out, [Alfonzo] Dennard. He was out. So we said we were going to take advantage of whoever [Aqib] Talib wasn’t holding, we were going to take advantage of. We just came out there and we did what we wanted to do on offense but Tom Brady and that offense did what they wanted to do and they almost came back at the end and beat us.
Beyond catching the ball, where does blocking fit into your game?
Man, that’s like a major part of my game. I take a lot of pride in it because it goes back to my college days. I came in at LSU and I was the sixth or seventh guy. I thought I had a chance to play because I had just about as much ability as anyone catching the ball, running, jumping and everything else. But I wouldn’t touch a soul, I wouldn’t block a soul. But one day, Coach [Les] Miles took my helmet on the sideline, the Arizona State game and I came in and met with him the following week and he told me I had to get physical, I had to learn how to block or I wouldn’t play football on this team. Ever since that day I just took it upon myself to make sure I did that and did it with pride. I appreciate you guys taking this time out to do this. I just want to thank Mr. Kraft and the whole Patriots organization for taking a chance on me. They could have gone out and signed anybody. I just want them to know I appreciate it and I’m going to give them everything I have.