FOXBORO, Mass. — Jonathan Casillas gained five wins and a chance to suit up for a playoff contender with one phone call.
The newly acquired New England Patriots linebacker found out he had been traded by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. — just 30 minutes before the NFL deadline. He quickly talked to former Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher, who signed with the Bucs this offseason, about his new team.
“I think they set the tempo,” Casillas, still accustomed to referring to the Patriots as ‘they,’ said Thursday. “They set the norm for what winners are supposed to look like in the NFL. They have a high pedigree and a high standard. I could see that as soon as I got here yesterday. They have one of the greatest quarterbacks ever — I can say ‘we’ now.
“It’s amazing to be here. It’s definitely humbling to be here, and I’m just looking to contribute and help us win games, man.”
Casillas called himself “a special-teamer at heart,” but he also expects to play linebacker in the Patriots’ nickel and dime packages. That’s par for the course for the 6-foot, 225-pound defender, who specializes in dropping back in coverage.
“I’ve never seen anything like this defense before,” Casillas said. “And that’s just me being a 4-3 guy, 225 (pounds). I’ve always played WILL outside linebacker, and you move me inside — doing some stuff inside. I don’t know if I’m gonna stay there or if that’s going to be my role. This week it is, playing against Denver.
“It’s different. Terminology is different, communication is different, the alignment in front is different — never seen Vince Wilfork before. I’ve seen him, but a player like that before and the scheme we run.”
Luckily for Casillas, he has some familiar faces to lean on in New England. He joins former Bucs teammates Tim Wright and Darrelle Revis in New England, and Wright was the first person who called Casillas after the news of the trade broke.
“That’s just the kind of guy he is,” Casillas said about Wright. “I saw Darrelle — Darrelle’s a good guy. We joke around all the time. It’s definitely good to have some familiar faces around the locker room that’s pretty familiar.”
Casillas, who grew up in New Jersey, was recruited by former Rutgers and Bucs head coach Greg Schiano out of high school. Casillas is far from the first Schiano product to join the Patriots, joining the likes of Wright, Revis, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, LeGarrette Blount and Aqib Talib.
“(Schiano) has referenced (Belichick),” Casillas said. “I know Belichick has his mark around the league, and his influence. Schiano’s one of those guys that he had his mark over. He’s definitely said nothing but great things about the way that he handles his business, and the way he handles his things.”
Casillas called the trade “a little bittersweet” because he was comfortable in his role with the Bucs, but in the NFL, winning trumps all.
“Getting here, it’s just a different feel,” Casillas said. “I talked to (Patriots director of player development) Kevin Anderson yesterday, and he said the worst season he had is 10-6. And I’m like ‘Wow. That’s absolutely amazing.’ ”
Photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images
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