FOXBORO, Mass. — Eric Rowe was in the middle of game planning for the Cleveland Browns when he got the call he was traded by the Philadelphia Eagles. Suddenly, he had to pack up, fly to New England and learn the Patriots’ defense while suddenly preparing for the Arizona Cardinals.
Rowe called it a “whirlwind,” but he’s happy to join a winning team.
“I’m excited to just get the opportunity really to play,” Rowe said Thursday at his locker. “This is like a dynasty team. I’m just excited for the opportunity to play, make the team better. Just kind of excited Coach (Bill) Belichick sees something in me, and he’s a Hall of Fame coach. That really motivates me.”
Belichick talked up Rowe in his news conference Thursday at Gillette Stadium, noting the defensive back offers flexibility.
“Eric played safety and corner in college so he has got some versatility,” Belichick said. “He has mainly played corner in this league, but you know, has some length. We’ll see how it goes, but I think he has some positional versatility, a smart kid, has got some length, has some speed.”
Rowe is 6-foot-1, 205 pounds and ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash with a 6.70-second 3-cone and 3.97-second short shuttle at the NFL Scouting Combine last February.
Rowe considers himself a cornerback at this juncture but is open to filling multiple roles for the Patriots. He’s exclusively played cornerback in practice so far.
“I’ve focused on it for the past couple years now, really getting comfortable with the technique,” Rowe said. “It does take a while, but I’m getting comfortable with that and being on the numbers and stuff. I consider myself a corner.”
Once Rowe learns the Patriots’ playbook and techniques at cornerback, he believes he can move on to learning other positions. It would be ideal for Rowe to serve as depth at cornerback and safety.
“I have a safety background, so it’s still like nothing new to me,” Rowe said. “I’ve been playing safety all through high school, almost all through college. If they need me to do that, I’ll move back there.”
Belichick doesn’t expect a huge role for Rowe in Week 1 against the Cardinals.
“I don’t think we can get him ready to do everything, get him ready for a smaller role,” Belichick said. “But between practice, for the show-team practice for the offense we do a lot of working guys into different spots — tackle to end, corner to safety, vice versa, inside to outside linebacker, guard to tackle on the offensive line, things like that. So, that gives us an opportunity to look at players at more than one spot when you include the practice plays.”
The Patriots invested only a 2018 fourth-round pick in Rowe. If he plays over 50 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps in 2016 or 2017, that becomes a third-round selection, an NFL source told The Philly Voice’s Jimmy Kempski, which at that point would be well worth it for a defensive back with Rowe’s upside.
Thumbnail photo via Derik Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports Images