BOSTON (CBS) – It’s kind of like reunion week as the Patriots start the second day of their joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There are a lot of connections between these two teams. A couple of the players on the Pats played at Rutgers when now-Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano was the man in charge.
Schiano recruited Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty, but as the third-year corner tells the story, it was the only offer the pro-bowler received.
“I wasn’t a guy that had any other offers; I only had Rutgers,” McCourty said. “Even with that being said, he was always trying to change the program around with the right things and was all about winning and being competitive. I think myself and a lot of other guys that play in the NFL now that went to college around that time really believed in him and in his belief in turning that program around. I think it was great for us to be there and be a part of something new that changed the culture of a whole football program.”
McCourty feels coach Schiano is a great man and coach. He thinks the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made the right decision when they hired him for the job.
“I think he’ll do well. He’s been in the NFL before,” McCourty said. “I remember all the times when we were in college, he used to tell us, ‘A lot of things we’re doing here will prepare you to play at the next level.’ He [ran] things like an NFL team. When I got to the NFL I was like, ‘You know, he was right.’ We did a lot things similarly, so I think he’ll transition pretty well. He was a coach in Chicago before and he spent a lot of time in college getting the different aspects and just going through it, helping kids grow into grown men. But as far as coaching football, I think he’ll do a great job.”
On their own sideline, the Patriots added another former Florida Gator to the mix in Jeff Demps on Wednesday, who practiced with his new team for the first time. The Patriots now have six former Gators on the team in Demps, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Spikes, Gerard Warren, Jermaine Cunningham and Jabar Gaffney.
Demps, Hernandez, Cunningham and Spikes all played on 2008 NCAA Championship Gators, something Hernandez said has made it an easy transition to the Patriots.
“It makes it a lot easier to adjust to the team, because there are a lot of people that you know,” the tight end said Thursday. “It still feels a little bit like college, especially with Spikes – we were roommates when I first went to (Florida). It’s nice to have someone from your college team still playing with you.”
Head coach Bill Belichick talked about the Gator connection on Thursday, and said it’s a mix between pure talent and his relationship with the program.
“The University of Florida has great athletes and great players at their school as do a lot of the other Florida schools. But I had a good relationship with Coach [Urban] Meyer as I do with Coach [Will] Muschamp and so maybe we had a little more insight or opportunity to evaluate or whatever and we felt like those particular players that we drafted there fit our system and what we were doing,” said Belichick. “Not everybody worked out and some worked out better than others. But that particular class, the Cunningham, Spikes, [Tim] Tebow, Hernandez, [Percy] Harvin.”
The D.A. Show: Levan Reid On Demps, Stallworth and Lloyd
“[Coach Meyer] asked me to speak at a clinic so I was there, Charlie [Weis] was there last year, so I just had a little more opportunity to interact with those players and that school and they were available at the particular times we were drafting and so forth,” Bill continued. “Some of it was coincidence and some of it was maybe a little more homework and with a player like Aaron Hernandez who talent-wise obviously should have been drafted a little higher than what he was, but we were comfortable with Aaron and taking him at the time we did, and that’s worked out pretty well for us. So, sometimes that little extra getting to know the player and the person and so forth can come into play. I mean, you never know in the draft process; you just never know how it’s going to go, but certainly coincidence is a part of it. Demps, we didn’t really – the guy was running track, so the way it turned out this year was, I’d say a lot of that was coincidence. It wasn’t that big of a plan, but we’re happy we have the opportunity to work with Jeff and we’ll see how it goes.”
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