Chris Long and LeGarrette Blount have each made it back to the Super Bowl for a second consecutive season.
Instead of wearing white uniforms for the second year in a row, however, the duo will be donning the dark green colors of the Philadelphia Eagles at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Feb. 4.
Long and Blount were each members of the Super Bowl LI-winning Patriot team – Blount was also a member of the Super Bowl XLIX team, spending parts of four seasons here in all – before signing with the Eagles as free agents last off-season.
Long played in all 16 regular season games in his lone season in Foxboro, starting seven. When he hit the free agent market, part of what Long said he was looking for was a different role. Belichick said in his press conference this morning that Long’s role with the Eagles is more similar to what it was with the St. Louis Rams, where he spent the first eight seasons of his career after being drafted second overall in 2008.
“He did a great job for us,” Belichick said of Long. “Look, there was no better teammate or guy that tried to embrace the program than Chris, but in the end, he probably has a better fit there for his skills and for this point in his career than maybe we had for him.”
Long’s usage decreased this season in Philadelphia. He started in only one game and played 496 snaps, a year after playing 677 snaps in New England. He did record an additional sack with the Eagles (5.0, up from 4.0 last season) and forced three more fumbles than a season ago.
Blount was also used differently in Philadelphia, a year after putting together one of the best seasons in Patriots franchise history by a running back. Blount rushed for 1,161 and team-record 18 touchdowns in 2016; with the Eagles, he ran for 766 yards and only two touchdowns.
Nate Solder, a former teammate of both Long and Blount, said that although he spoke with each player “bits and pieces” during the regular season, he probably won’t do so again prior to the Super Bowl.
“I doubt it,” Solder said.
On the flip side for the Patriots, cornerback Eric Rowe and running back Dion Lewis each began their professional careers in Philadelphia. Rowe was traded to the Patriots by the Eagles prior to the start of the 2016 season, while Lewis signed in New England as a free agent late in 2014 after bouncing around from Philadelphia to Cleveland to Indianapolis.
Safety Patrick Chung had a one-year hiatus with the Eagles after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Patriots, returning to New England via free agency prior to the 2014 season.
Wide receiver Danny Amendola spent some time on Philadelphia’s practice squad in 2009 prior to establishing himself with the St. Louis Rams.
Is This the year?
When the Patriots take the field on Feb. 4, they’ll be setting out to accomplish what no other team led by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady has done in a Super Bowl: score in the first quarter.
Improbably, through each of their first seven trips together, New England has failed to get on the scoreboard in the first 15 minutes.
“Thanks, Mike [Reiss],” Belichick said when reminded. “Yeah, all of the negative stuff in the Super Bowls we need to be aware of, too.”
In addition to never scoring in the first quarter of a Super Bowl, the Brady-Belichick Patriots have scored first in only two of their first seven trips (Super Bowl XXXVIII vs. the Carolina Panthers, Super Bowl XLIX vs. the Seattle Seahawks). New England wound up taking the lead in each of the five games it fell behind in, hanging on to win three.
Taking Care of Business
Many members of the Patriots’ roster come equipped not only with the experience of playing in the Super Bowl, but preparing for the logistics of the Super Bowl.
A limited amount of tickets are given out to each player, with the number varying based on factors such as service time in the league.
Amendola, playing in his third Super Bowl with the Patriots, said that he continues to take care of the matter of doling out tickets to his friends and family himself.
“I’ve got a tight-knit group of friends and family,” Amendola said. “They’re excited when they get invited.”
But what about when it gets to the point of saying no to someone? According to Amendola, he hasn’t had to do that.
“Like I said, I’ve got a tight group,” he said. They know what’s up.”
Amendola was also asked during a session in front of his locker if he recalled Super Bowl XXXIX between the Patriots and the Eagles. Then a freshman at Texas Tech University, Amendola said he remembered “watching Deion Branch ball out” for New England.
“I think T.O. [Terrell Owens] was coming off an ankle injury? It was a great game,” Amendola said.
Branch remains the lone player other than Brady to win a Super Bowl MVP award for the Patriots, as he went off for 11 catches for 133 yards.
Owens, the mercurial wide receiver, had nine catches for 122 yards in a losing effort after missing the final two games of the regular season – as well as Philadelphia’s first two postseason games – with a broken leg and torn ligament in his ankle.
Rodney Harrison picked off Donovan McNabb with 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter to preserve a 24-21 win for the Patriots, giving them their third Super Bowl title