FOXBORO, Mass. — When Joe Vellano‘s rookie season started, the Maryland defensive tackle immediately had a role as a rotational player behind Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly. As the season has progressed, however, his role has increased — and so has his play.
The Maryland product has filled in admirably for the the two hurt vets. Vellano, playing next to fellow rookie Chris Jones, has been a surprise performer in the middle of the defense. He’s been productive, with 32 tackles and a sack midway through the season. He also has eight hurries, two quarterback hits and a swatted pass.
Now in Week 9 of the season, this is the perfect time to catch up with some of the rookie contributors to see how their seasons are progressing. Vellano said the season has flown by so far
How much have things changed since you came in?
Joe Vellano: Oh, definitely a lot’s changed. Really the biggest thing, though, is just one day at a time and kind of put practice together and weeks together and hopefully it carries over to the game that week. If it’s good or bad, you’ve got to move on and keep doing the same thing. Football is one of kind of those sports where a bunch of things can happen, where people are in different positions and you might have to do multiple things. But I think this group that I came in with, as a whole, they’ve done a real good job of continuing to move forward and getting better every week.
What’s been the most difficult transition through the whole rookie season?
JV: I’d say definitely just the amount of — probably the info or how long you have to really — in football, we started in mid-July, we’re in the halfway point here. There’s still a lot a lot of football left. Just keeping up with it and don’t let the length of the season slow you down. Just be consistent and you know it’s long and stuff, but you just keep fighting through it. It’ll keep getting better.
What’s been the easiest thing?
JV: I wouldn’t say easy, but I think I got lucky, just being in a system like the Patriots’ system, or our system. Just getting a chance to play multiple fronts and stuff. I like that. I like the change. I like — I feel like it’s one of my strengths. Just, I’d say the coaching and stuff. We get coached up real good. I think it really carries over to the games. I’m big on the mental side of football, so I like a lot of that. We have great coaches and I think they do a good job of getting us prepared.
What was the move like for you?
JV: I’m from upstate New York, so I’ve been familiar with this area a lot. I’ve been out here a bunch. Definitely a little adjustment playing for Maryland to come up here. Just weather wise, it gets a little colder. I was used to it from growing up up here. That adjustment hasn’t been too hard for me.
Have you looked at one certain player or coach as the big brother for you?
JV: I’d say it’s tough. It’d be more like big brothers. There’s a lot of people you ask questions of. There’s a lot of them — TK [Tommy Kelly], V [Vince Wilfork], Rob [Ninkovich], Chan [Chandler Jones], obviously Pat [Graham] — D-line coach — and Coach [Bill] Belichick as well, our whole defensive staff. There’s a lot of support from everybody. A lot of people give great insight.
Has the season seemed long or short?
JV: Nah, for me it’s kind of been short. Because you kind of, it kinda felt after camp, that was kind of a season on its own. And you kind of ended that one, then you’re into the real meat of it. So that kinda started, then you get kinda rolling and play this week and we’re already at Week 9. To me, that happened pretty fast. Really just kinda, every week really, see where we are next week. So we just kinda keep moving forward. And we really keep staying on the week at present.