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Chris Hogan's Homecoming: The former Patriot reflects on return to Gillette Stadium with the PLL

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Full circle, poetic moments aren't always easy to find, but for Chris Hogan, there is no shortage of symbolism is in this particular chapter.

Hogan, who won two Super Bowls with the Patriots, makes his return to Gillette Stadium this weekend. It's a special place for him and his football career, but this time, he's here to pursue a different dream: a career in professional lacrosse.

In February, Hogan declared for the Premier Lacrosse League [PLL] Draft. A month later, he was acquired by the Cannons. This week, he made the roster. The PLL kicks off its 2021 season right here at Gillette Stadium from June 4 to 6, and that significance is not lost on Hogan.

"It was nice to come back to somewhere where I felt very comfortable. I've spent some time in some locker rooms that I've never been in before, but getting to see the guys again while they're here for OTAs and some of the people that I've known around the building that are still here," Hogan said. "It's a lot of fun, and it's really cool for me. For this whole thing to come full circle … and play on a field that I have so many great memories, and I just get the chance to make some new ones."

Hogan spent three season with the Patriots, landing with the Panthers and the Jets in 2019 and 2020 respectively. After spending time on injured reserve the last two seasons, a lot went into his decision to walk away from football. Ultimately, it was the right choice.

"It was a lot that went into it. Obviously, football has an expiration date. I wasn't going to play that forever. The last couple years were tough. I think for me it was a decision that was based around my family and my health," Hogan said. "I knew if I played lacrosse I was going to be able to spend a lot more time with my wife and my kids. I think that played a big role in that since for the last 10 years I've spent months and months away from them."

Leaving the NFL didn't mean leaving his competitive nature at the door, though. For Hogan, the PLL is a chance to compete with and against the best.

"I still have a big competitor in me that is never going to die, which is probably at fault a little bit because I'm not getting any younger, but the competitor in me is still as alive as it ever was," Hogan said. "I wanted to come out here and try to beat these guys and measure myself on keeping the best lacrosse players in the world."

Coming into it, Hogan knew competing for a spot in the PLL would be a challenge. Conditioning and strength weren't issues after 10 years in the league, so stick skills were a major focus in his preparation. Though it's been a decade since he played competitively, he made it clear his passion for the game never faded, even while he was pursuing his football dreams.

"I've never, never fallen out of love with [lacrosse]," Hogan said. "I think for me, I was excited to get back to playing something that I had a lot of fun and a lot of joy playing."

As Hogan puts in hard work to make his debut, he has no shortage of support in Foxborough. With many former teammates at the stadium for OTAs, he's seen and heard from guys who are cheering him on in his new pursuit.

"They found out I was playing lacrosse and I think it was just something that they tried to jump behind and they supported my decision," Hogan said. "They're excited for me to get out there and do something a little different ... A lot of them don't know anything about lacrosse so we're going to try to create some more fans this weekend."

This, of course, includes Head Coach Bill Belichick. His love of lacrosse is no secret, and it's been a way for Hogan to connect with his former head coach.

"The two of us have a tremendous amount of respect for the sport, how it's played, and who is playing it. I think that's like a common ground between the two of us, where we both know how difficult it is to play this sport. For me, not having played in over a decade, it's going take a lot of work," Hogan said. "It was just fun talking to him about it and what I'm working on. I get to talk to my former head coach about a different sport other than football, something that he loves. It's nice to talk to him in that light as opposed the head coach. it's Bill Belichick, the lacrosse guy."

The team isn't alone in showing Hogan support. Patriots fans have let him know they've got his back and are pulling for him -- even on his new adventure.

"The outcry of support has been nothing short of amazing from Patriots Nation when I announced that I was switching to lacrosse from the football. Everyone has been just so supportive," Hogan said. "It was a humbling thing to see how many people were supporting me and what I was trying to do. These fans are the best in the world."

That encouragement is yet another reminder to Hogan how special of a place New England is.

"This place was the best. The fans were good to me. This team was good to me. They gave me an opportunity. I've created lifelong friendships here," Hogan said. "Foxborough will forever and always be a place that is near and dear to my heart and to me as a professional football player. I would like to think, whenever I do retire, this would be the team that I would want to retire from just because of the memories and relationships that are formed here."

The PLL kicks off its season on June 4 at Gillette Stadium, and tickets are available all weekend long. You can purchase them here.

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