Bodden, Patriots a Match Made in Football Heaven

Leigh Bodden was stuck in Detroit last year, playing for a team that had it worse off than the city’s car industry. The Lions, who became the only team in league history to lose all 16 of its games, were a laughingstock, a real-life slapstick comedy, the modern-day 53 stooges.

Spirits were down, and so were statistics. Bodden had a career-high six interceptions during a breakthrough season in 2007 for the Cleveland Browns, but he only had one pick last year for the Motor City Mishaps. After signing a one-year contract with the New England Patriots in March, the cornerback is hoping a change of scenery will boost his stock again.

“Call it what you want,” Bodden said about his lost season in Detroit. “I felt like I still played decent, but the numbers weren’t there, and that’s pretty much it.”

Bodden, who was undrafted out of Duquesne in 2003, spent his first five seasons in Cleveland, and he really started to thrive once Romeo Crennel took over as head coach in 2005. Bodden earned a starting job midway through that season and flourished under Crennel’s zone defense, a similar system Bill Belichick employs in New England.

Bodden actually reached out to Crennel’s nephew to ask him how he’d fit in Foxborough, so the Patriots can credit an assist on the signing to their former defensive coordinator. Once Bodden visited New England and met with Belichick, he canceled the rest of his meetings around the league and immediately signed a contract.

“I only visited here. I planned other visits, but I didn’t really feel like it was worth it,” Bodden said. “You’ve got to love [Belichick]. When I first met with him, when I first came here on a visit, we just sat down and talked, and he’s just a down-to-earth guy. We talked football, background. He wants to win, and that’s what I want to do. That’s all that we’re here for.”

The one-year deal (reportedly worth $2.25 million) was a mutual decision, as Bodden likely could have commanded more money and long-term security elsewhere. It benefits the Patriots because they can see how the marriage will work, especially as they continue to develop a good set of young cornerbacks. And it works for Bodden because he gets a chance to thrive for a winning franchise, which could lead to an even bigger payday next offseason.

Bodden will compete for a starting job against a host of good cornerbacks in Shawn Springs, Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite and Darius Butler. And Bodden is no slouch by comparison. After all, he was traded to Detroit along with a third-round draft pick for Shaun Rogers, who is one of the better defensive tackles in the NFL.

At the very least, Bodden will take advantage of practicing against the Patriots’ elite wide receivers on a daily basis. He’s already had a strong minicamp and looks to be well on his way toward a rebound campaign — by statistical standards anyway.

“Some games, I didn’t get balls thrown my way,” Bodden said. “Balls go different ways different years. Last year just wasn’t a year that a lot of balls came to me, but I still made a lot of plays, forced fumbles and things like that [and had] pass breakups.”