Prior to being released by New England on the day after Christmas, defensive back Marquise Cole was a core member of the team's special teams units and a counted-on backup in the secondary.
Cole played in 13 games for the Patriots this season. He finished the year with eight special teams tackles. He was part of the impressive tip-drill sideline interception with Devin McCourty. He was the man coming off the bench as recently as Week 15 to cover Mike Wallace in Miami when an injury sent Kyle Arrington to the sideline.
He even still had a locker intact with his name on it in the Patriots locker room at Gillette Stadium as recently as this week.
But as the playoffs opened, he found himself out of work. Out of work, that is, until the Broncos lost cornerback Chris Harris last Sunday to a torn ACL and called Cole to join Denver's defense as it prepares to take on Tom Brady and the Patriots passing attack.
This unique roster wrinkle – likely out of pure personnel need more than trickery, information gathering or gamesmanship – comes after Deion Branch signed with the Colts prior to last week's divisional round game in New England.
While Branch was inactive for the game last Saturday night, watching from the sidelines in Colts apparel, there is a much better chance that Cole could be in uniform on Sunday for the banged up Broncos.
Though that may rub Patriots fans the wrong way, Cole's former teammates in the New England defensive backfield understand the situation at hand.
"That's my dog. Good luck, Quice. Cash that check, baby. Pay those bills," Aqib Talib said in a way that only he can.
As of Wednesday, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning had engaged in minimal conversations with his new teammate, but did acknowledge that could change as the week goes on.
"I just said, 'How are you doing? My name is Peyton. Good to have you here,' about five minutes ago," Manning said to laughter in his Wednesday press conference. "So, that's the extent of it so far. No telling where it would go, but that was the starting point."
Cole is taking his new role with a new team as a simple chance to play.
"It's an opportunity for me. It's better than being at home. It is what it is," Cole said in simple Belichickian fashion.
Cole also downplayed what he might be able to offer Manning and the offense despite his intimate knowledge of the New England pass defense. Bill Belichick himself has called the idea of mining players for info on their former team "way overrated."
"I'm definitely going to talk to him again; he's the quarterback of the team," Cole said of Manning. "But as far as him picking my brain or anything like that, like I said, he's one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league. So there's nothing really I could tell him that he doesn't already know."
No matter what happens on Sunday or in the future, Cole looks back fondly on his two seasons in New England.
"Oh, it was great. Regardless of what happens, and me being released, that organization gave me a way to provide for my family," Cole said. "No ill will at all. I appreciate everything they did for me. Like I said, giving me the opportunity to do what I could for my family. There is no bad blood or anything like that. It is what it is."
Are you worried that Cole's role in Denver could give Peyton Manning and the Broncos an advantage over the Patriots pass defense?