TIGHT END TROY NIKLAS
April 19, 2018
Q: What have been your early impressions of New England?
TN: It's been awesome. Everyone's a hard worker and we're just getting after it, so I'm excited about that.
Q: What would you say about the culture here?
TN: The biggest impression is that everyone just comes in here on a daily basis and just works their butts off, no matter what it is. Everyone's here to get better.
Q: Can you take us through the process of how you ended up here in New England? What was that process like for you?
TN: So, it was actually kind of a crazy story how this all went down. I got the call on Saturday from my agent saying 'Hey, you know, they're interested. They want you to come up and visit,' but my wife was almost nine months pregnant and we were like 'We could have the baby any day now.' So I talked to my wife and said I'd really like to go up there, and it was a team I'd love to play for, so she was like 'OK, just get up there and get back as soon as you can.' So Sunday I get the call saying 'Hey, they want you up there on Monday.' So I flew out on Sunday, which was Easter. I get in and then meet with all of the coaches. It was just awesome. They’re just on top of everything. You could tell that they’re really specific about everything, so I was really excited about that. I did some other things and then driving back in a van I called her – called my wife – and was just like 'You alright? I want to make sure everything’s good.' She was like 'Yeah, we're headed to the hospital. I think my water broke.' So I'm stuck here and we're kind of like 'Well, can I get an earlier flight out?' I pretty much had met with everybody, but the flight that I had was the best flight to get on. So I flew back, made it back to the hospital, was able to get a little cat nap in before the whole process started at the hospital, and then early Tuesday morning we had my baby daughter, so a crazy turn of events.
Q: What's your daughter's name?
TN: Romy Niklas.
Q: Was it a long flight back?
TN: It was the longest flight of my life. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it back or not.
Q: Where was the flight to?
TN: Back to Phoenix.
Q: Did the baby arrive early or was that the right time?
TN: Two days early. April 5 was the due date.
Q: What conversations have you had with Tom Brady and what excites you about how much he likes to utilize the tight end position?
TN: It's just the first couple of days of OTA's. We haven’t really gotten into anything specific. Everything I do here is going to have to be earned. We haven’t gotten into any specifics, so I’m just looking forward to getting to work and showing them what I can do. I have faith that they’ll place me where they think I can best help the team.
Q: What would you say the strengths of your game are?
TN: I'd say blocking, first of all, and then those close-quarters, 10 to 14-yard range, and then between the numbers catching.
Q: How much longer was it after your daughter was born that you got the contract offer from the Patriots?
TN: So, pretty much when I got here I had gone around and pretty much knew instantly that this is the place I wanted to be. I just really loved the culture and everything about this place, and so it really wasn’t a question going back. I was telling my wife before I flew back 'Hey, I think this is the place for me,' and she was like 'OK, great. Just get back.' So on Tuesday morning I signed everything and sent it back. It was pretty quick.
Q: What was it about this organization that made you think you wanted to be here after that visit?
TN: Just the people, number one. Everyone is very dedicated. They're hard-working and they put the team first. It reminds me a lot of the time I spent at Notre Dame. There's some similar contrast with the type of people that are around here and that’s what I was most excited about from my visit.
Q: Did you have any contact with the Patriots when you were coming out of college?
TN: Yeah, you know, I came here on a visit before the draft and was really excited about maybe getting to come here, but that’s how the draft is. You don’t really get to choose. I was happy with my time in Arizona. I’m very thankful that they drafted me and I had a great time there.
Q: How do you feel about playing with Rob Gronkowski?
TN: I'm really excited about. He's obviously one of the best tight ends that has ever played and I’m excited to learn from him and play with him.
Q: What do you think you can learn from him?
TN: It's kind of hard to say exactly. There's just something about players like him that have had success on that kind of level. They have little nuanced things that they know and they kind of just pass down, and so I’m just excited to learn some of those little things that he does in his game that makes him great.
Q: Have you had a chance to talk to him yet?
TN: We're just working out.
Q: Is he a guy you would have modeled your game after in college?
TN: When I was in college I didn’t watch a ton of football because we were just studying and worrying about ourselves, but when I was coming out for the draft they were like 'You know, this was a guy that you're similar to,' and I really got to watch some tape on him and see what a beast he is. The guy is just a monster, so yeah. But he’s definitely a guy that I think any tight end would want to model their game for.
Q: Who told you that you were similar to Gronkowski? Was it NFL teams during the draft process?
TN: No, it was just like an article, you know how they do that? It's kind of a disgrace to the players in the NFL.
Q: Is Romy with you? Has your wife been able to make it up here yet?
TN: Yeah, so they flew out with me, I think on Saturday. It was only 10 days after she was born and she didn’t make a peep on the flight. She's been a good baby so far.
Q: What's your wife's name?
Q: Was that your first child?
TN: Yeah, that was my first.
Q: You came here on Easter Sunday, correct?
TN: Yeah, I landed around 11:00 a.m., got to the hotel. It was an early morning for someone on West Coast time. I got up at 5:20 a.m., so 2:20 a.m. PT.
Q: Are you loving this weather?
TN: It's kind of going to be weird for me to say this because I have been living in Arizona and it’s just perfect every day almost, so it’s kind of nice to get some clouds and some rain for once.
Q: Does it remind you of South Bend?
TN: Yeah, very much so.
RUNNING BACK JAMES WHITE
April 19, 2018
Q: Are you excited to be back?
JW: Yeah, I'm excited to be back here. You get to see your teammates, get back into your routine and kind of start gelling together.
Q: What is this time really about for you guys?
JW: I mean just staying in shape, getting back into the playbook, learning new things, learning your new teammates. Just getting back in that rhythm just really helps guys just gel together, have some fun and just get back in that routine.
Q: What has been your first impression of some of those new teammates?
JW: I mean there's a lot of great athletes in this league and just to have them and just kind of teach them the Patriot way and how we work here. It's going to be tough. It's not going to be easy, but just put your head down and grind and learn as much as you can and you'll be just fine.
Q: There was a little turnover in the running back room this offseason. Have you had a chance to connect with Dion Lewis?
JW: Yeah, yeah. I still talk to those guys. Him, LG [LeGarrette Blount], since I was with Shane [Vereen], Rid [Stevan Ridley], all those guys. They helped me out a lot when I was a younger guy so it's only right to stay in touch with them and just check on them and see how they're doing.
Q: Did you know Jeremy Hill before he came in?
JW: I met him at the Combine. We came out the same year. I'd known him a little bit through Giovani Bernard because they were teammates too, but he's a good dude. He's had a lot of success in this league. Happy to have him here. He'll help us compete and win some football games.
Q: You came out in that 2014 draft class. Obviously, a lot of those guys in your draft class were free agents this year. Did you feel a sense of relief to get that contract signed the year prior this offseason?
JW: It was definitely a blessing to be fortunate to have another opportunity, but at the same time nothing is guaranteed. You still have to come out here and work. It's a ‘what have you done for me lately’ league so you've got to go out and prove yourself every day. So I just try to not take anything for granted and be the best person I can be every time I step in this building.
Q: How unusual is it to not have Tom Brady, your quarterback, here?
JW: I mean it's not really my position to comment on that, but he's a guy that's had a lot of success in this league and he knows what he's doing. So it's not really my position to comment on his situation.
Q: How about Rob Gronkowski?
JW: I mean same way. He's had a lot of success. They all have their personal business and it's not really my position to comment on their situations.
Q: Matthew Slater was here the other day and talked about the concept of ‘buy in’ a good amount. How have you noticed the buy in is for the guys that are here?
JW: Everybody buys in. Like I said, even the new people I think from day one, they learn it's going to be tough. It's not going to be easy. You're going to work hard and I think that just helps us starting in training camp all the way until the end of the season. Just knowing that you’re putting in that work starting day one here, during OTAs, voluntary workouts and just building that bond together. We all did it together so when we're out on the field we stick together and play together.
Q: Does it impact the buy in at all when two guys like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski aren't here?
JW: The guys that are here we're going to work together and like I said, build that bond, work hard. Those guys have had a lot of success in this league and it's just not really my position to comment on that situation. Those guys will be fine. Whatever decision they make, that's their decision.
Q: Were you pleased to see that Josh McDaniels is sticking around this season?
JW: Yeah, Josh is a great coach. He's helped us out as an offense. Ever since I've been here, helped me out as a player, puts you in the right position to succeed and it's just great to have him back.
Q: Can one person replace a guy like Dion Lewis? Is that kind of thing that you guys will have to do collectively?
JW: We've got to do it collectively. That guy is a special player. He can run, pass, catch, block, can pretty much do it all. We have guys in this room that are capable of doing some of those same things and [we'll] just kind of take it on as a group.
Q: You said that you've had some nice mentoring with some of your former teammates like Shane Vereen, etc. If the team brought in a running back in the draft, would you pay it forward?
JW: Definitely. I'd definitely try to help anybody that steps in this building. Like I said, those guys helped me when I was a young guy so it's only right that I help the younger guys. Just try to string them along and try to help them succeed as best they can.
Q: Will you watch the draft? Does that interest you at all?
JW: It's interesting. They make it entertaining a little bit. I probably won't watch the whole thing. I'll watch a little bit, kind of just check updates on the phone but it's always cool to see some kids’ dreams turn into reality.
Q: Have you had a chance to really reflect on the all-purpose running back you were last season? How does that spin forward with the playbook now?
JW: For me, once I get that iPad back and just come back in here and just kind of watch up on things and kind of see things I can improve on. I think that's really the thing you can learn at this point in the year – just watch the film, see things you can work on because you have a lot of extra time to kind of find ways to get better. So I definitely do that and just find any way I can to help this team win football games.
Q: Do you remember your draft day experience?
JW: Yeah, I had my family there. My wife, now, she was with me there and it's a special moment. It's nerve-wracking. You just hope you get that phone call, but even if you don't, if you get that opportunity to get a workout or just step foot into a building, just make that good impression, work hard and just show a team whatever you have. Show them you're a good person and a good football player.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you during this time of the season?
JW: For right now it's a pretty short day – just kind of lift, run, meet. You're done in like four hours or so, but just kind of do some treatment, do that extra stuff, stretch. Just take care of your body because this time right now is just as important as when training camp comes around and every day has to count for you.
Q: You're the only player left from the Patriots 2014 draft class. What has it been like to see guys go throughout the years and still be here?
JW: It's definitely tough to see guys go, especially guys who you came in with. I mean that's the NFL. It's a business. Guys are going to come and go. Most of the guys are still on football teams now so just wish those guys the best of luck. I'm just blessed to still have the opportunity to play this game.
Q: What would have been your scouting report for yourself coming out of Wisconsin?
JW: I don't know, man. I'm not sure.
Q: How much have you improved since college though? What parts of your game have changed?
JW: I mean I definitely catch the ball a lot more than what I did at Wisconsin, but I've always felt confident in my abilities to do that. We just weren't asked to do that that much there. But I just try and be a good overall football player even though I may not run or do all the other stuff. But I still pride myself on being able to do all things so if they put the ball in my hands I can do whatever they ask me to do.
Q: Have you had the chance to see Coach [Bret] Bielema around by any chance?
JW: Not yet. Not yet. I forgot he was here to be honest. No, I haven't seen him yet but it'll be cool to catch up with him. He's a great guy. [He] gave me an opportunity at Wisconsin so it'll definitely be cool to see him.
Q: You mentioned Shane Vereen earlier. Any chance you were able to catch up with him this offseason?
JW: I didn't get to see him. Actually I forgot to congratulate him. He got married too so I've got to send him that text, but he's a good dude. Like I said before, he helped me out once I stepped foot into this building and taught me a lot of things so he definitely was a big help.
Q: For this offseason program, is it sort of the same as it's ever been the way you look at it? Is there anything different this year?
JW: It's the same as it's ever been. As soon as you step in the building just be ready to work. It's going to be challenging but it's good for us. You want it to be challenging because there's going to be some challenges on game day. It just helps us get better.
Q: Have you watched Tom Brady's docu-series and what have you most learned from him?
JW: I haven't watched the series yet but I've heard it's very interesting so I should check it out. No, but he's a competitor. He's a good person, good family man, good dad, good husband and puts the work in on and off the field. For a young guy coming in the building to see a guy that's been doing it for 18-plus years and the amount of success that he's had, you definitely want to emulate a guy like that and just kind of work just as hard of trying to outwork him but it's going to be kind of hard to do that.