Patriots running back LaMont Jordan.
A year ago LaMont Jordan watched from Oakland as former Raiders teammate Randy Moss had a dream season in New England. Now, after getting his release from the Bay Area the former Jets second-round pick is hoping for a similar rebirth in Foxboro.
Jordan and his new Patriots teammates returned to the outdoor practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for another full-pads practice Sunday morning giving the newly signed running back his first chance to showcase his skills before packed bleachers full of New England fans. Just one day after signing with his new team and subsequently passing the requisite training camp conditioning test, the versatile Jordan showed impressive burst and cutting ability in a variety of team and group drills.
But for Jordan the real highlight came when the Patriots called his agent, giving him the opportunity to come to New England.
"As soon as I was available my agent called me and told me he had spoken with the Patriots and that they wanted me to fly up. That put a smile on my face," Jordan said following his first padded practice work. "[It's] an opportunity to come to a winning organization, a winning team. Any time you get an opportunity to put on the Patriots uniform that's something that you have to invite."
Jordan joins the Patriots after a few tough years out west, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry in three seasons in Oakland. He rushed for 1,025 yards in his first campaign in 2005 as a free agent addition, adding another 70 catches in 14 games. He barely topped 400 and 500 yards in the last two years respectively, playing in a total of just 21 games. Patriots fans might remember Jordan from his days with the Jets where he served as a productive backup and change-of-pace option behind Curtis Martin.
"I think LaMont adds some quality depth to our backfield," Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said. "We've played against him a number of times. He's a tough guy to tackle, a hard runner. He's good in the passing game, good with the ball in his hands. He's a good football player that we'll put into that mix and give us a little more depth at that position."
Jordan joins returning starter Laurence Maroney, veteran backup Sammy Morris, third-down back Kevin Faulk, jack-of-all trades Heath Evans, fullback Kyle Eckel and rookie free agent BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the New England depth chart. But his unique combination of size (5-10, 230) and athleticism make him a unique addition to the roster.
"Depth in this league is always a good thing," Evans said. "You can have studs in your backfield one day and a week later they can all be gone. Obviously you never want those things to happen, but he only makes our team better and I think that was the reason to bring him in."
"He's a big kid. He can run inside. He can run outside. He can catch the ball. He's a good pass receiver in terms of his route running. He's instinctive. And he's returned kicks," Belichick said. "We'll see how that all manifests itself moving forward. Right now, LaMont just has to concentrate on learning the offense and the techniques and his assignments and so forth. But I think he's already gotten off to a pretty good start on that. He's working hard at it."
And seeing the Patriots as a potential place for a career rebirth, why wouldn't he?
"I have all the motivation that I need. I know the backfield is stacked. But that's what training camp is for," Jordan said. "Everybody is coming out here trying to make the ball club. I know what I'm capable of doing once I get my legs up underneath me and get out there and show what I'm capable of doing. It's up to the coaches to decide about what players they decide to keep."
In Jordan's dreams, at least, he's one of the players that makes the roster out of camp. In fact even though the former Gang Green member once thought less than favorably of New England, he now hopes his No. 32 jersey ends up in the biggest of games as it did when Antowain Smith wore the number in New England.
"I couldn't stand the Patriots for a while. When I played for the Jets, of course, they were beating up on us," Jordan said looking back. "But when I really sat back and looked at the body of work that the organization has done you can't help but accept the fact that just great players have come through here and worn this uniform and I'm hoping I can come through. I remember I know Tom Bradyhad a No. 32 behind him in one of the Super Bowls and I'm hoping I can make the team and that can be the case again."
But make no mistake, while Jordan is ecstatic about his new team and has big dreams, he understands right now he's got more to worry about than Super Bowls.
"When I heard the Patriots were interested I said, 'Well, Randy left Oakland and came here and had a big year so hopefully I can do the same thing.' I'm excited. I haven't made the ball club yet. I just signed my contract, which gives me an opportunity to compete for a spot. But I'm excited. I'm looking forward to the opportunity.
"Right now, when I wake up in the morning I'm putting on a Patriots uniform and I am very enthusiastic about that."
Who's hot:Jabar Gaffney. The veteran has shown over the last two seasons to be one of Brady's favorite targets at some key times. He's done the same thing to open camp. He's caught plenty of passes from No. 12 both from the slot and the outside. He also made a bid for play of the day on Sunday morning with a great catch in the back corner of the end zone beating Terrence Wheatley and Brandon Meriweather on a ball thrown by Matt Gutierrez.
Who's not:The backup quarterbacks. Without singling any of the three out, the guys behind Brady have been less than spectacular to open camp. Sunday morning, specifically, New England defensive linemen and linebackers got their hands on too many passes, batting down balls at the line of scrimmage. With Brady limiting his throws in camp, the trio of Matt Cassel, Gutierrez and Kevin O'Connell will see plenty of chances to step up. They need to start doing just that.
Play of the Day: Gary Guyton might not be the most notable of the Patriots rookie linebackers, but he stood out Sunday morning. The versatile rookie free agent was running with tight end Marcus Pollard in coverage when he used one hand to bat the ball in the air before cradling it in with two arms and turning up field for the would-be pick-six. After practice, Belichick had plenty of good things to say about the versatile young player out of Georgia Tech.
Richard Seymour, Benjamin Watson, Vince Redd, Jason Websterand Matt Light missed the morning workout. … Pollard arrived late to the practice, just as the team was about to break up from stretching. … Tackle Nick Kaczurwas activated from PUP and took part in the morning workout, seeing reps at left tackle with the second unit. New England now has 10 players on the PUP list. … To make room for Kaczur, New England once again waived offensive lineman Lav Bauta. Bauta has been signed and released twice this week. … With Webster absent, the rookie Wheatley took reps at cornerback opposite Fernando Bryant with the first defense. … Brady didn't do much throwing during the workout, deferring to his three backups. He did take snaps in team drills on running plays. … With Seymour absent – and both Jarvis Green and Mike Wright on PUP – Le Kevin Smith took right end reps with the top group. … In Light's absence, Wesley Britt took first-team reps at left tackle, while Ryan O'Callaghan worked at right tackle. Billy Yates continues to work at right guard with the first unit. … Three geese flew over the practice fields early on in the morning workout. … As he does during games, Kelley Washington used hand gestures to fire up the large crowd during kickoff coverage drills. … Kevin Faulklimped out of one drill, hobbling over to team's trainers as it looked like he may have had his foot stepped on. … New England returns to the field Sunday evening for another workout at 5:30 p.m., coming out of the gates with double sessions for three of the first four days of camp.