He hasn't been here long, but the Patriots want Jonathan Freeny to stick around a little longer.
Thursday morning, ESPN reported that the Patriots gave the four-year veteran linebacker a one-year contract extension. Freeny confirmed that report a short time later in the locker room before today's practice.
Freeny will receive a $500,000 signing bonus, $1 million in base salary next year, and as much as $250,000 in roster bonuses next season, according to ESPN. The 26-year-old admitted that he was not expecting to have contract negotiations so soon into his career in Foxborough.
"It was a pleasant surprise, though," Freeny added. "Just truly blessed to have an opportunity to stay here another year. I'm happy about it. The team and I came to a mutual understanding and they wanted me here and I wanted to be here. So, it's great."
Freeny has seen action in both of New England's games thus far, mostly in a special teams capacity. He logged one tackle on special teams against Pittsburgh and one on defense versus Buffalo in Week 2.
Clearly, it's more than his statistics that have convinced the Patriots to invest further in Freeny.
"I just come out here and work hard every day, show them that I'm willing to work and that I'm dedicated to what I'm doing," he surmised. "I'm guessing, in the end, that's what the deciding factor was. I'm not really sure what they thought, but that's what I would guess.
"It's been great," he said of his brief time thus far as a Patriot. "The guys, the coaches, everybody. The organization's first-class. Everyone treats me well, everybody gets along, great guys all around the building. It's just good to be here."
'Respect' for Brown
Once upon a time, Rob Gronkowski and Sergio Brown were teammates. They entered the NFL together as Patriots rookies in 2010. Two years later, Brown left for the Indianapolis Colts, where in a November here at Gillette Stadium, Brown injured Gronkowski's left forearm during an otherwise meaningless extra point.
That was the first in a series of serious injuries and subsequent surgeries for Gronkowski. Last November, in a game at Indianapolis, Gronkowski and Brown, shall we say, renewed acquaintances when the tight end famously threw Brown "out of the club" during a Patriots touchdown. Retribution, perhaps, for causing the initial injury and for all the trash-talking that Gronk later claimed Brown was doing during the game.
Brown is now the starting free safety in Jacksonville, this week's Patriots opponent.
"Emotions were flying high that day," Gronkowski recalled about last year's incident when he drove Brown to the ground out of bounds. "I've got nothing but respect for Sergio. He's a great player. We've just got to go out there and worry about the Jaguars as a whole.
"He's a good player. I have respect for how he prepares for the game, how hard he works, and for him as a player. It's not just about Sergio Brown, though, it's about the defense as a whole, too."
The fun-loving Gronkowski admitted, though, that he sometimes enjoys the verbal back-and-forth with opponents, even those that are former teammates.
"It can be fun – depending on how the games going, what part of the game it is, what quarter, what's the score and all that," he explained. "It's always part of the game. The emotions always come flying high with the game when it comes down on Sunday. All the hitting, all the competing out there on the field, but sometimes I do like the yapping. Sometimes I give it, sometimes I get it, so it's just all part of the game."
Judging by his continued absence from practice, it appears Ryan Wendell's undisclosed illness is rather significant. The interior o-lineman and co-captain has now missed three straight team workouts, meaning he'll likely be inactive yet again this Sunday.
Aside from Wendell, the Patriots are relatively healthy. He is the only player not able to take part in practice even on a limited basis.