The New England Patriots had a lot going for them when they were courting wide receiver Brandon LaFell in free agency.
LaFell said he signed with the Patriots because he wanted to win, play with “Hall of Fame quarterback” Tom Brady and get the ball more. A phone call on the way to New England with Patriots running back Stevan Ridley, a former LSU teammate, didn’t hurt LaFell’s decision, though.
“I called Ridley when I was at the airport heading up,” LaFell said Wednesday during a conference call. “He was out training on the West Coast. He was so excited. He was like, ‘You have to be lying to me right now.’ I was like, ‘I’m in the airport, I’m headed to Providence.’ He was like, ‘We have a bunch of young guys that play a lot of good ball, but we need another veteran that will step in and help those guys grow. You’re proven and this and that. You can be one of those final pieces of us, taking us to the next level.’”
LaFell will come to the Patriots and compete for snaps with second-year pro receivers Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick values versatility, and LaFell has plenty of it: He played in the slot and outside during his time with the Carolina Panthers.
LaFell received some valuable advice from Ridley during their phone call.
“He was like, ‘Man, I’m going to tell you just like I tell everybody else, you have to come up here and be able to sacrifice your off-the-field life for things you have to do — put in extra time on film and extra work at the practice facility,’” LaFell relayed Wednesday. “He just kept saying the word sacrifice; sacrifice and hard work. ‘If you’re committed to do that with the rest of the guys, you’re going to fit in well and help us win games.’ “
LaFell said he never expected to leave the Panthers, but he got a call from the Patriots on the first day of free agency. He signed a three-year, $9 million contract with New England later that week.