FOXBORO, Mass. — As Alge Crumpler strolled through the Patriots' media workroom on Thursday afternoon, one thought breezed through the collective mind of all in attendance: Where'd the rest of him go?
The tight end has struggled to remain in shape in recent years, to the point where one league source who saw him last season said Crumpler looked as close to a professional athlete as Santa Claus. But Crumpler just emerged from an intense six-week training session with legendary fitness guru Mackie Shilstone, and the new member of the Patriots looks much healthier.
"Perception is everything," Crumpler said. "I wanted to make sure I was in the physical condition to walk into a locker room and be able to work, [be] around guys and be able to show I can lead by example, also. Admittedly, I hadn’t done a lot early in the offseason. I was resting my body, and I just felt like I wasn’t in the shape to come into a locker room and be behind [physically]. I didn’t want to give that perception. I was able to work that out, get my training done and I've been here this week. It's been great. It really has."
Crumpler signed a two-year deal with the Patriots in March, immediately immersed himself into a fitness program and reported to Gillette Stadium this week. He spent seven seasons with the Falcons and his last two years in Tennessee, and he has earned the reputation as one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL.
Crumpler's receptions have hit a recession since his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl season in 2006. Though he was mostly used to block in Tennessee, it's only natural to believe his weight played a factor in the statistical decline. Crumpler was perfectly fine with his role change, though, insisting he'll do anything as long as the coaching staff is upfront and honest with how they prefer to use him.
"I don’t want to say I was out of shape," Crumpler said. "I was very effective playing, especially in the role that I was in [during] the last couple years. I fit that system really well and did the things I was asked to do. That’s what I'll do. I'll always do the things I'm asked to do. If I can do little things here or there to expand that role, and it helps, then I'm all for it."
Crumpler will likely fill the blocking role in New England, too, and the soft-spoken, polite 32-year-old will also serve as a mentor to draft picks Rob Gronkowksi and Aaron Hernandez. Passing knowledge is something Crumpler has always enjoyed, and he is excited to work with the younger guys once they return for the team's next camp later this month.
That’s not all that has Crumpler in good spirits, though. After amping up his workout regimen, Crumpler has been in a better place, and it might even do wonders for his 2010 season.
"All that matters is I feel great every day, and that’s a good thing," Crumpler said. "I feel better when I'm working out than I do when I'm resting now. A lot is going to be expected of me here, so I just want to make sure I'm ready for it."