FOXBORO, Mass. — New acquisitions are rarely caught off guard by the New England Patriots’ high expectations.
The intensity is ramped up with the Patriots, compared to other NFL teams, because of their unprecedented string of success. The Patriots have fired off 15 consecutive winning seasons in the salary cap era, and that doesn’t happen by chance.
“I think guys know from the first day — I think it’s known through the NFL that this place is a little different,” Patriots captain Devin McCourty said Thursday. “Obviously, guys come in, you don’t know how different. You come in, you might say, ‘This is really different.’ Or for some guys, ‘This is kind of what I expected.’
“I think the good part is when guys come in, they say it’s different, but they understand it’s different for a reason — higher expectations. The guys that we’ve had for a while, they expect to be playing at a certain level. You understand we’ve got a guy in charge that knows what it takes. We just follow that lead, we’ll be OK no matter how hard it is, how much you don’t want to do it.”
The Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX after the 2015 season and were knocked out of the playoffs in the AFC Championship Game by the Denver Broncos a year later. Because of the high expectations set by head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, it’s actually surprising when the Patriots don’t make it all the way to February.
“One day, you know what it’s for, and that’s what makes it tough when you don’t get where you want to get,” McCourty said. “Because you know what you put in and what you thought was going to happen and what you envisioned and dreamed of doesn’t happen, that’s what makes it hard when the season does end. That’s a part of the game. You do the same thing again and hope you take that next step forward.”
The Patriots are set up well to take the next step in 2016. They return 10 starters on defense and added wide receiver Chris Hogan, tight end Martellus Bennett, guard Jonathan Cooper, defensive end Chris Long, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and linebacker Shea McClellin, among others, this offseason.
Those players likely knew what they were getting into when they signed or traded to the Patriots, and they’ll have to adapt quickly.
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images