Last week was a pivotal one in Stephon Gilmore's life. After signing a 5-year contract worth an average of $13 million per year, the free agent cornerback returned home to Charlotte, N.C. and almost immediately headed back out the door. He had to rush to the hospital, where his wife delivered their second child, a baby girl they named Gisele Siena, just 45 minutes later.
"It was a great day," the 26-year-old recounted to reporters via conference call on Monday. "I haven't really slept much."
Gilmore admitted to being "surprised a little bit" that he received such strong interest from the Patriots, but is anxious to join New England's secondary.
"I just know that I'm going to work my hardest and contribute wherever I can to make the team better," he promised. "The strongest part of my game is being physical at the line of scrimmage and playing a lot of man-to-man coverage and making plays on the football, but I'm ready to do whatever the coaches want me to do to make the team better."
Playing for head coach Bill Belichick, he added, will be an honor.
"Watching him from afar, they find a way to win. That's one thing you have to respect about them. I'm just looking forward to meeting my teammates, learning from the coaches, and being the best team we can be.
What about the possibility of teaming up with New England's other high-profile cornerback, Malcolm Butler? Gilmore offered a diplomatic response, given the current uncertainty surrounding Butler's contract status.
"I don't know what's going to happen with that, but I'm looking forward to [playing with him]. He's a great player... I'd love to team up with him."
In the interim, the former Buffalo Bills defender revealed that he's made contact with former Bills teammate and current Patriot Chris Hogan, as well as safety Devin McCourty, and that he's been welcomed to New England "with open arms."
"It feels amazing," was how wide receiver Brandin Cooks described his first impressions of his new work environment. Cooks came to Gillette Stadium this week after being traded from New Orleans.
The 23-year-old said he was relaxing at home when he was notified he'd been dealt to the Super Bowl LI champs.
"I was excited," he said upon receiving the news. "It's a first-class place. The opportunity to play for an organization like this is a dream-come-true and a blessing. I couldn't be more thankful."
Cooks made a good impression on Belichick the past couple of summers when the Saints held joint training camp practices with the Patriots. Having that close contact with New England whetted Cooks' appetite for his new role as one of the newest members of the organization.
"When we practiced against them, it was always competitive. So, to be on a team like this now… Of course I'm excited to be playing with someone like [quarterback Tom Brady], a [future] Hall-of-Famer, a guy that's so competitive. That's what you look forward to… I can't wait to get started," Cooks smiled. "I wish we could start right now."