FOXBORO, Mass. — Brian Tyms is 6-foot-3, 204 pounds, runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and has a vertical leap over 39 inches with agility and explosion to match, so it’s easy to wonder how the third-year wide receiver is still trying to claw his way onto an NFL roster.
Tyms always seems to be playing catch-up, however. The New England Patriots wide receiver, who’s still trying to master the playbook after missing OTAs and minicamp, wasn’t ready for the NFL after playing just one year of high school football and two seasons in college at Florida A&M. He wasn’t mentally prepared to play for the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted rookie in 2012, just years after growing up in foster homes and living out of his car as he tried to make ends meet while attending Broward Community College out of high school.
“I was really hard-headed,” Tyms said Monday at Gillette Stadium before practice about his time with the 49ers. “I was still — I had a lot of personal issues with family and losing family members and transitioning from having help from the state to just being on my own.
“It was tough. I kinda felt like anybody who came at me about anything, whether it’s at football practice and if somebody might have hit me too hard — now I want to fight you. Or I’m late for a meeting or I’m trying to do my own thing. It wasn’t a good look. I didn’t know how to be a professional, how to study, how to do those things.”
Tyms has bounced around the NFL since being released by the 49ers in August 2012. He was on the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad in 2012 and 2013 until being signed to the Cleveland Browns’ active roster in 2013, but the potential he showed at Florida A&M, and FCS program, during the pre-draft process and in seven games last season caught the New England Patriots’ attention. Tyms played under former Browns general manager Mike Lombardi last year. Lombardi now serves as an assistant to the coaching staff with the Patriots, so he must have liked what he saw in Cleveland.
Tyms knows he had maturity issues in San Francisco, but he isn’t quite sure why things didn’t work out with the Dolphins or Browns. He was cut in training camp in 2013 with the Dolphins after being signed to the practice squad.
“In Miami, I guess it was a roster thing,” Tyms said. “And with Cleveland, I don’t know. I guess the suspension. I guess that may have rubbed them the wrong way. I really couldn’t tell you. I feel like everything happens for a reason. I feel like that happened for me to come here and for me to get the opportunities that the organization is giving me.”
Tyms will sit out the first four games of the season after violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Tyms tested positive for Adderall, which he said he has been taking since he was a child. Tyms failed to clear the medication with the league, however.
He still has a chance to crack the Patriots’ roster, despite the suspension, and the four-game ban actually gives the Patriots flexibility to take a longer look at the third-year pro out of training camp. Of course, he’d be playing catch-up again after spending four weeks out of the Patriots’ facility during the suspension.
Tyms has impressed the Patriots’ this summer and finally broke out, showing his full potential during the Patriots’ preseason opener against the Washington Redskins when he caught five passes from rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for 119 yards and a touchdown.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is particularly intrigued by Tyms, who signed with New England on July 27.
“I think Tyms has done a good job in camp of taking advantage of his opportunities,” Belichick said Saturday on a conference call. “He’s been a pretty consistent player for us, as far as being out on the field and working hard every day, showing some ability to make some big plays downfield both in practice and in the games, as well as on some of his short and intermediate routes, showing some ability to run with the ball after he catches it.
“He was a guy that was a little bit behind in terms of the overall installation of our offense from the spring, but he’s worked hard and done a good job of catching on. There are still a lot of things he can improve on. We’ll just have to see how it all turns out, but Brian has been a great guy to have on the team — his work ethic, his toughness, his competitiveness has been really good to have and to work with. He’s worked hard to improve every day, so you can’t really ask any more than that.”
Tyms still might be a long shot for the Patriots’ roster with a crowded depth chart in front of him. He’ll need a dominant performance against the New York Giants on Thursday night — paired with an injury or disappointing play from one of the other Patriots receivers — to get a shot after his four-game ban.
“I’m just excited to play and get a lot more opportunities,” Tyms said. “Go out there one more time with my teammates before I have to serve this ridiculous suspension. That’s all I can say. I’m just excited, man. I’m ready to go.”