On the morning of the first round of the NFL Draft, the Patriots made an early team-building move by signing receiver Marqise Lee to a one-year deal. The five-year veteran had breakout seasons in 2016 and 2017, posting 119 receptions and six touchdowns while leading Jacksonville to the 2017 AFC Championship game.
After two seasons marred by injuries, Lee was eager to get back on track by signing with the Patriots, the team that knocked his Jaguars out of the playoffs three seasons ago.
"It's been quite difficult, with the knee injury and then coming back with the shoulder injury," said Lee on an introductory video conference with reporters on Wednesday. "It's been difficult but it's been a test which I've quite enjoyed as far as knowing myself. After these certain injuries you have some people that get down on themselves, who want to shut it down. As for me it's kind of like a motivating factor. I just want to see where I'm at at this point, I'm eager to get out there and play football as I feel like I haven't played for the last couple years. I'm just ready to get at it."
Lee joins Damiere Byrd as the only two veteran receivers added via free agency this offseason. While the Patriots have an array of vets and second-year players returning, there should be at least one open roster spot for a new weapon. Despite coming to New England after Tom Brady's departure, Lee still felt like it was the perfect football-centric spot for him.
"For me, my biggest thing I just knew the last couple years I didn't really have the opportunity to do things I needed to do as a player," said Lee. "I felt which place was [better] to get back and try to get back to yourself than New England? Very strict, basically just all about football and handling your business."
With OTAs underway while the team continues to work from home, it presents a new challenge for Lee to get up speed with the Patriots. Like everyone else, he was taking the new situation in stride.
"It's very new to everybody," said Lee. "We all are getting used to it. It's kind of difficult trying to hop on a new team and learn a new system and things like that by doing it all on your own at the house.
"We just have to utilize our time as much as we can, even without the coaches we try to hop on Zoom and try to communicate with each other just make sure everybody's fine."
As for the 2017 AFC Championship it was a bitter loss for Lee but one that showed him what Patriots football is all about.
"That game was crazy I ain't gonna lie, I enjoyed it," reflected Lee. "It just showed the resiliency of New England.
"You could just see it in their eyes, them not giving up, them continuing to fight, and continuing to rock out. And that's what I'm looking forward to, regardless of who's here or not, I feel like everybody who's on this team is willing to fight and that's just their mentality. I'm the same way and I'm just coming in to try to help."