FOXBORO, Mass. — Wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez has crossed enemy lines, moving from one side of the NFL's rivalry of the decade to the other. And he's learned the sun does indeed rise over Gillette Stadium.
"I've never seen the stadium from this vantage point, but it's a great facility," Gonzalez said Tuesday. "I will say everybody has been super nice and very welcoming. Despite what they told me in Indianapolis, everybody is really nice here. It's a great place, and I'm happy to be here."
The first-round pick out of Ohio State in 2007 spent his first five seasons with the Colts. He caught 94 passes for 1,240 yards and seven touchdowns in his first two years in Indy, but a myriad of injuries limited him to just five catches for 67 yards and no scores over the last three seasons.
Gonzalez, who turns 28 in September, signed a one-year deal with the Patriots. It was a low-risk move for the franchise that will reap valuable rewards if Gonzalez can stay healthy, though that will be the great uncertainty.
"[The past three seasons] certainly weren't how I would have hoped for them to go," Gonzalez said. "I've learned a lot of things, and going forward, that's kind of in my past, I would say. It's a basic rule. I look forward, as opposed to back, and that's the focus I'm putting on it right now.
"I'm leaving all of that kind of behind. Right now, I'm here. I'm happy to be here, and I feel pretty good."
Gonzalez signed with the Patriots on March 17, but as one of the Colts' player reps, he had to tend to his NFLPA duties until the end of the month. He reported to Gillette on April 1 and has been working out with his new teammates and coaches for a little more than a week.
Due to Gonzalez's success in the Colts' complicated system, he seems like a natural fit to get with the program in New England. Gonzalez's greatest contributions have been in the slot, but he's also got value on the outside, which should give him plenty of opportunities on the field.
Gonzalez hasn't spoken with quarterback Tom Brady yet, but the receiver played high school football with Pats backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. Gonzalez's sister has also been lifelong friends with Hoyer's wife, so there's plenty of history between the two, who have reconnected well in New England. And by showing up early, Gonzalez can work to learn the offense immediately.
"That's really my focus, whether it's with Tom or with Brian or with anybody, is just to learn this offense as quickly as humanly possible," Gonzalez said. "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."
That's all part of what drew Gonzalez to the Patriots. He admired them from afar, even when the rivalry was at its peak. Gonzalez, who was rooting for the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, said he'll enjoy the competition to make the team due to the talent at the position. And when he realized the interest was mutual, he was happy to change allegiances.
"I'm excited to be here," Gonzalez said. "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.
"To me, it's the perfect fit in a lot of ways."
Thumbnail via Facebook/Anthony Gonzalez