The call did come, and much sooner than even Gonzalez expected. He signed with New England on March 17, just four days into free agency. "The phone call early was great, and it was somewhat surprising. But it was the one I was hoping to get, to be honest," the 27-year-old receiver said Tuesday.
"When I kind of evaluated free agency and different teams and how I thought I would fit culturally, as well as from an offensive standpoint, this was one that I targeted. To have the interest be mutual, that worked out well.
"I'm excited to be here. It's probably the best professional football environment there is, so I'm excited for the opportunity. I love the east coast. I love this part of the country, so I'm excited. I'm happy and just glad for the opportunity."
So excited, in fact, that he arrived here on Palm Sunday – a fortnight after inking his new, one-year deal – to start the all-important process of, as he dubbed it, getting "immersed" in the Patriots playbook, system, and overall style of doing business.
He'll have a better opportunity than most free agents who land in Foxborough, for a number of reasons. For one, he's used to working in a complex offense. His old scheme in Indianapolis is among the more complicated in the NFL (at least it was when Peyton Manning was there with Gonzalez). What's more, Gonzalez already has one good friend on the team who can help him out – backup QB Brian Hoyer. The two were high school teammates back in suburban Cleveland.
"It's very odd," the Ohio State alum noted. "When you leave high school, you certainly don't expect to kind of reacquaint yourself with your high school quarterback in the National Football League. I wasn't even sure I was going to play at Ohio State, let alone in the NFL. It's cool, and it's nice to have kind of a familiar face and somebody that you've known awhile. I've known his wife longer than him. She was one of my sister's best friends growing up. There's definitely a familiarity there that's nice and comfortable."
Though he has yet to connect with his new quarterback, Tom Brady, Gonzalez is anxious to do so.
"I was joking with my friends – I have a very strict Hall of Famer-only policy. Just stay with that group," he added with a laugh. "It's good. It's wonderful, obviously. Quarterbacks make receivers look very good, and hopefully I can get some opportunities with [Brady]. I'm really just looking forward to everybody getting back in. once we can get with the coaches and get the offense going and things like that, that's my focus."
He's trying not to dwell on his NFL past so much these days – a past that began with much promise (he was Indy's first-round pick in 2007), but has been plagued by numerous injuries. The one-year pact he signed with New England may be an indication that the team has some trepidation about his health status, but the fact that he was one of the first free agents they targeted also says they believe he has the talent to contribute.
But Gonzalez insists he's not out to prove anything to anyone … although he does have a plan of attack.
"Honestly, every season I come up with a plan that I think is going to get me to a point where I want to be at, and then I go through that process and try to accomplish goals and things like that," he explained. "And that's how I've approached everything. I've never felt like I was proving anything to myself… from a football standpoint. No matter what I'm doing, I try and come up with a recipe for success and go at it that way, and I've always been convinced that if I do go through those steps, it'll result in what I want, so that's kind of how I approach it. I'm not really a prove-it-to-myself kind of guy.
"I've got it written out," he admitted with a grin, but quickly added, "I'm not going to share it with anybody." He was willing to share just one of those goals.
"Just to learn this offense as quickly as humanly possible. I know just from watching that it's pretty complex, a pretty involved offense, and the one in Indy was, too. So that part of it doesn't worry me. But I do want to make sure when it's time to get on the field and go through things that there's no hesitancy mentally. Because I know if I don't know exactly what I'm doing, there's going to be problems for me. It's a lot harder to play when you don't know what you're doing."
Gonzalez had a busy morning at Gillette. After working out, he sat down for a one-on-one chat with Patriots Today's Lyndsay Petruny, entertained a mob of reporters' questions on the field, then paid a visit to the PFW in Progress radio studio for a guest appearance.