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A nice 'ring' to it

Among the veterans in New England who've won championships, newly-acquired cornerback Jeff Shoatemight be the only player in the Patriots' locker room who has to think twice before showing off his Super Bowl ring.

Unlike seasoned pros such as Tedy Bruschiand Tom Brady, who've earned their hardware in New England, Shoate won his lone Super Bowl last year as a member of the New York Giants, who shocked the Patriots in Glendale, Ariz., for their first title in 18 years.

"A lot of guys here don't appreciate it," Shoate said with a laugh Monday morning following the Patriots' walkthrough practice inside the Dana-Farber Field House. "I don't bring it up too much."

No hard feelings, Jeff. Proving they're willing to let bygones be bygones, the Patriots signed Shoate on Saturday afternoon to add depth to their secondary after veteran safety Tank Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week's preseason opener against Baltimore.

A former fifth-round draft pick, Shoate has played in only seven games since his rookie year in 2004. The 27-year-old defensive back missed the entire 2005 season with a knee injury and subsequently spent 2006 on Denver's practice squad. The Broncos reactivated Shoate at the beginning of last season and he played in seven games before they released him in December.

A month later – following their playoff victory in Tampa Bay – the Giants signed him to their practice squad as an insurance policy in case injured cornerbacks Sam Madison or Kevin Dockery were unable to return to the lineup. With Madison back on the field the following week in Dallas, Shoate spent the remainder of the postseason watching from the sideline as his new teammates won a Super Bowl – enough action to earn himself a ring.

"A nice ring," Shoate added. "I haven't even seen it yet. My wife [Ronisa] just got it in the mail, so she's at home walking around wearing it and I haven't even seen it."

Chances are, neither will any of his new teammates. Schoate understands the irony of switching sides after last year's victory in Arizona, but is also just happy to have a job at this point. The 5-foot-10 veteran – a college walk-on at San Diego State – waited patiently at his home in Los Angeles after his contract with the Giants expired and made sure to stay active until someone came calling.

Shoate missed out on training camp, which now forces him to play catch-up in practice, but he also got to spend quality time with his family before signing with the Patriots.

"You don't get to do that much in the league," he said, "so I sat back, waited for my opportunity, stayed in shape and, luckily, I came to a great team.

"You're always a little surprised when you feel like you can play the game, [and] feel like you've showed a lot on the field, but you have to be patient sometimes."

Although his role with the Patriots is unclear at this point, Shoate will likely have to make his mark on special teams during the preseason to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

"No matter what, you have to play special teams," Shoate said. "If you are not starting, you have to be ready to do that, so I came ready to do that. Hopefully, I'll get a shot to make some plays on defense, too."

Shoate will get a chance to turn heads with Williams on injured reserve and defensive backs Rodney Harrison, Ellis Hobbsand **James Sanders *still working their way back into playing shape after missing practice time during camp. And if he sticks around long enough, perhaps Shoate can earn a ring he won't have to hide from his teammates.

"Right now, there are a few guys who are down," he said. "It's my job to step in and hopefully I can make some plays and hopefully win a spot on the team.

"Of course, I've got to learn the defense, and that's going to take a couple of days. I've been working on that all weekend. Luckily, I got to come in at a time when they were taking a break, so that's going to help out a lot. So far, I'm getting a pretty good grasp on it, but I've got to do it on the field."

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