Patten was home in Columbia, S.C. watching the Saints' Monday night demolition of the Patriots in Week 12, and like everyone else in the free world, he could see the Pats needed some help. So, Patten immediately sent a text message to good friend Tom Brady — one of those subliminal, "Hey, don't forget about me," lines.
"I remember texting Tom after the game [and] not thinking he would get the text because it was right after the game," said Patten, who admitted he was actually rooting for the Saints because he played with them from 2007-08. "I said, 'Hey, man, tell Coach I think I still have some more left if y'all need some help.' And he texted me back. The game wasn't over until 11:30, so he probably texted me back maybe at like 12-12:15. He was like, 'Chief, you know if it was up to me, you would be back.' Lo and behold, I don't know if that might have sparked a little interest or what have you, but here I am and let's hope for the best."
Patten had his most successful years in New England, catching 165 passes for 2,513 yards and 16 touchdowns from 2001-04. He'll turn 36 in August, so that type of production is out of the question, and even Patten knows he's not a lock to make the team.
After an injury to his left big toe hampered his ability to make the Browns' roster out of camp in 2009, Patten spent the season out of football before signing with the Patriots last month. Patten, who is living with friends close by Gillette Stadium, showed up for voluntary workouts Monday, and his extremely genuine, humble, workmanlike personality immediately impressed his younger teammates.
If nothing else, Patten will provide a good influence inside a locker room that slipped in chemistry last season, and his knowledge of the game will greatly affect younger receivers like Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, Sam Aiken and anyone drafted next month. While Patten's greatest asset was his speed during his first stint in New England, he was also always on the same page as Brady, and that ESP quality bred success.
"The bottom line is just being accountable, being trustworthy, getting to the spot, and [Brady] is going to find you," Patten said. "That's one of the keys to this offense is his ability to go back, dissect the defense and pick out the weaknesses. The bottom line is you just have to do what your role is on any particular play."
Patten said he has no regrets for leaving the Patriots and just wanted to take advantage of the financial opportunity that was presented to him in the form of a five-year, $13 million contract. He spent two years in Washington and two more in New Orleans before getting a chance in Cleveland in 2009.
The Western Carolina product wasn't sure if he’d get another chance in the league, but he also wasn't willing to have his career end due to an injury. Therefore, he called the Patriots to gauge their interest, and he killed it in a workout, which caused the Pats to offer him a contract for the veteran minimum.
"The fire was still burning deep down, and I kind of left the game not on my own terms due to injury," Patten said. “You never want to leave that way because there will always be that doubt, 'Well, could I have gone another year? Could I have accomplished something else on the field?'
"Watching the different games and seeing the different receivers out there, I still felt like I could do it. If you still think you can do it, and you have no pain in your body, why not do it until you can’t do it anymore? And hey, the recession might have kind of motivated me."
Quips aside, Patten isn’t in New England as a charity signing. Even if nothing is guaranteed, Patten's presence will only yield positive results behind the scenes. And if he and Brady can re-spark that old flame, the low-risk signing would be even more beneficial.
"I can't wait to get a chance to work with [Brady] again," Patten said. "After leaving, I played with another [great quarterback] in Drew Brees. They're two of perhaps the top-three quarterbacks now playing the game. I used to always tease with Brees. He was the girlfriend, but Tom was that first love. You never forget your first love."
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