While the New England Patriots are out of the playoffs, they’ve got plenty of ties scattered throughout the NFL’s four remaining teams. Let’s take a look at each of the final four contestants and their ties to both the Patriots and the New England area.
Patriots connections: (1)
Kicker Adam Vinatieri played for the Patriots from 1996-2005. He kicked 18 game-winning field goals in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime with New England, and three of those kicks famously came in the postseason.
The Colts elected to go with Matt Stover in their playoff opener last week, as Vinatieri was still recovering from multiple surgeries. Vinatieri, though, is preparing to play on Sunday.
New England connections: (7)
Special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski was the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach at Northeastern University from 1989-90.
Strength and conditioning coach Jon Torine played at Springfield College from 1991-95.
Defensive end Dwight Freeney grew up in Hartford, Conn.
Guard Jamey Richard grew up in Weston, Conn.
Defensive back Jamie Silva grew up in East Providence, R.I., and he played football at Boston College from 2003-07.
Running back Donald Brown played football at UConn from 2005-09.
Defensive end Rudolph Hardie, who is on injured reserve, grew up in Hartford, Conn.
New York Jets
Patriots connections: (5)
Quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh was the Patriots’ second-round draft choice in 1978, and he played in New England through 1982. Cavanaugh, who wore No. 12, threw 19 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions during his tenure.
Wide receivers coach Henry Ellard played five games for the Patriots in 1998. He caught five passes for 86 yards.
Linebacker Larry Izzo was an integral member of the Patriots’ special teams from 2001-08.
Offensive lineman Damien Woody was the Patriots’ first-round draft pick in 1999 and played in New England through 2003.
Quarterback Kevin O’Connell was the Patriots’ third-round draft pick in 2008 and played in New England until he was released in last summer’s training camp.
New England connections: (2)
Defensive back James Ihedigbo was born in Northampton, Mass., and played football at UMass from 2002-06.
Defensive end Mike DeVito was born in Wellfleet, Maine, and played football at Maine from 2002-06.
New Orleans Saints
Patriots connections: (5)
Fullback Heath Evans, who is on injured reserve, played in 54 games for the Patriots from 2005-08. One of the most popular players in the locker room, Evans gained 677 yards from scrimmage and scored four touchdowns.
Fullback Kyle Eckel was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2005 and later had multiple stints with the Pats from 2007-08. He scored two touchdowns in 12 regular-season games.
Tight end David Thomas was the Patriots’ third-round draft pick in 2006 and played for the team until he was traded to the Saints during the 2009 preseason. Thomas caught 21 passes for 261 yards and one touchdown with the Patriots.
Cornerback Randall Gay was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2004 and played for the team for four years. Gay appeared in 39 games, making 14 starts. He recorded five interceptions and returned two fumbles for touchdowns.
Defensive tackle Remi Ayodele was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2006.
New England connections: (5)
Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. was born in Haverhill, Mass., and played football and baseball at Medway (Mass.) High School. He also played baseball at Boston College, where he was the team captain in 1994. Carmichael then served on the New Hampshire coaching staff in 1994.
Linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar played football at Boston College.
Assistant special teams coach Mike Mallory coached at Rhode Island from 1993-95.
Tight ends coach Terry Malone played football for Holy Cross from 1978-82 and was the tight ends coach at Holy Cross in 1985. Malone then served as the offensive line coach at Boston College in 1996.
Coaching assistant Mike Cerullo is a native of Middleton, Mass. and played running back at Central Connecticut State. He also coached the defensive line at Curry College in Milton, Mass. from 1999-2000 and served as the tight ends coach and assistant linebackers coach at Northeastern University from 2001-03.
Patriots connections: (2)
Wide receiver Greg Lewis spent six months with the Patriots prior to the 2009 regular season. Acquired from the Eagles for a fifth-round pick, Lewis was expected to compete for the third wide receiving spot but was released.
Tight end Garrett Mills was the Patriots’ fourth-round draft pick in 2006 but spent the season on injured reserve. Mills was then released during roster cut-downs in 2007, and reports indicated the Patriots hoped to sign him to their practice squad once he cleared waivers. It was also reported Bill Belichick called Vikings head coach Brad Childress to ask him not to claim Mills. Childress ignored Belichick’s request, and the two sides apparently weren’t all too happy with one another.
New England connections: (4)
Center John Sullivan is from Old Greenwich, Conn.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was the wide receivers coach at UConn from 1998-99.
Assistant to head coach Dennis Polian earned a master’s degree in administrative studies at Boston College.
Assistant special teams coach Chris White was born in Haverhill, Mass., and played quarterback at Colby College from 1986-89. He also served on the Holy Cross coaching staff from 1993-94.