One of the New England Patriots’ few remaining links to their three Super Bowl titles is leaving the team.
Linebackers coach Pepper Johnson has released a statement to ESPN.com explaining his decision to leave the Patriots. Johnson has been with the team since coach Bill Belichick was hired in 2000.
Johnson started as an assistant linebackers coach in 2000 before being named inside linebackers coach in 2001. He began coaching the defensive line in 2004 and moved to linebackers coach in 2012. Johnson played under Belichick with the New York Giants from 1986 to 1990, Cleveland Browns from 1993 to 1995 and on the New York Jets in 1997 and 1998.
Read Johnson’s statement below, via ESPN.com.
“Today marks a new day for me. Today is a new day full of promise and hope. It is also a day to reflect, as I embark upon a new journey. Today is the first day in 13 years that I am not a part of the New England Patriots, although I will always be a Patriot in my heart. Today also marks the first day in 26 years that I am not working in some capacity with one of greatest head coaches of all time, as well as my friend, Bill Belichick.
“Football is my life. From putting my body on the line, my hand in the dirt, to teaching others to do the same, this will continue for me. … I have big dreams and goals, and they all involve football. So as I soak in this new day and embark on wherever my new path takes me, I shall embrace this new chapter in my life.
“I thank the entire New England Patriot organization for the last 13 years of my life. I am proud of all the things we have accomplished. The Kraft family is one of a kind, and I will always be grateful to them and hold them in the highest regard. Bill Belichick and I have been working together in some capacity for 26 years, and I am who I am because of it. To have five Super Bowl rings (two as a player, three as a coach) and all of them with Bill has been a blessing. I could never have asked for a better coach/boss/friend in those 26 years. Thanks for always supporting me, and I know Bill will continue to support me no matter what.
“Thank you, New England Patriot fans. I will miss you the most.”
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork released a statement on Johnson’s departure. Check out his tweet below.
In regards to the news on Pepper Johnson here are my thoughts http://t.co/En2HE1y0jI—
Vince Wilfork (@wilfork75) January 21, 2014