It didn’t take long for Tommy Kelly to make his presence felt in New England.
The 6-foot-6, 310-pound defensive tackle recorded his first sack with the Patriots on Thursday night. It took Kelly until Week 15 last season to finally get after the quarterback and bring him down behind the line of scrimmage.
That’s what this season is all about for the 32-year-old: getting a fresh start and proving his detractors wrong.
“It’s difficult,” Kelly said about learning the Patriots’ defensive scheme. “But I mean, me personally man, I just wanted to come out and make sure, like, there’s been a lot of things said about me in the past. I just wanted to just try to just ‘OK I got a new start, I got a fresh start.’ I just want to show these folks that what you been hearing about me, don’t believe everything you hear.”
Kelly had been knocked in Oakland after he received a five-year, $50.5 million contract in 2008. He was dogged for a lack of effort on every snap and for drawing too many penalties.
“I’ve come from a team that struggled,” Kelly said. “People try to say, ‘Well, how good is he?’ Teams, they weren’t good. It go like that. I just really want to prove the people and show the people I can play. I understand I’ve been in Oakland for a long time. Oakland got some people. We probably [had] no quarterback. You know what I’m saying? That’s what you need on this level. A good quarterback. I just want to show people people, personally. I just want to show people I can play. So, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Kelly says he has been putting in some extra work on his playbook at night in order to prove those doubters wrong. He’s part of a much-improved pass rush in New England that is doing a lot of its damage inside at defensive tackle. The extra work appears to be paying off.
“I just been try to just get in my book, learn the defense as much as I can,” Kelly said. “It’s a hard defense to learn. If you want to play, you got to learn. Bill don’t like no dumb players. He wants nothing but tough, smart guys. I had to really, really, really get in the playbook. We check and we go from one defense to another. So, you gotta be on this [expletive]. I had to — this is as hard of a defense as I’ve ever had to learn. I did a pretty good job. I just find myself having to look at my playbook, I mean my D book, at least five, 10 minutes every night just to get stuff. Just stay and check stuff.”
The Patriots had trouble generating pressure at Kelly’s position last season with Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love. They combined for just 1 1/2 sacks all season. At this rate, Kelly will far surpass their production from last year and he’ll earn the respect from around the league he deserves.