FOXBORO, Mass. — It’s been more than 15 months since Jordan Richards heard his name called on draft night, but the New England Patriots safety is in the midst of his first true NFL offseason.
Because Richards’ alma mater, Stanford, utilizes a trimester format rather than the standard semester system, he didn’t graduate until mid-June of 2015, preventing the second-round pick from joining the Patriots until close to a month after his fellow rookies had arrived in Foxboro.
“Jordan got off to a late start last year with the whole Stanford trimester schedule they were on, or whatever it is,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said before Thursday’s training camp practice. “He kind of missed a lot of the spring. He’s a smart kid, he works hard, he caught up, but it’s not quite the same as being there from Day 1. …
“I’m not saying he would’ve been a 90-percent play time guy had he been here from Day 1, but (his late start) certainly didn’t help him any.”
Richards wasn’t an every-snap player in his first NFL season, but he did contribute, playing 21.8 percent of defensive snaps and 51.4 percent of snaps on special teams, per Pro-Football-Reference. At 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, he has the ability to play both strong and free safety — the type of versatility Belichick covets.
“You just want to be able to do as many things as you can and do them at a really high level,” Richards said Thursday. “I don’t want to just be a cover safety or just a free safety, and that’s how it is for every guy in this room. We all want to be around the football. We all want to be on the field and helping this team any way we can.”
His collegiate obligations now but a speck in his rear-view mirror, Richards has had perfect attendance during organized team activities, mandatory minicamp and training camp.
“He had a really good offseason, and he’s been on the field,” Belichick said. “He doesn’t miss anything, he’s a durable kid that’s smart, really pays attention, just gets better every day. I think he’s taken some good steps. It’s a very competitive position there, but he’s definitely gotten better.”
Safety projects as one of the Patriots’ strongest position groups, as last season’s starters (Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung) and top two reserves (Duron Harmon and Richards) all are back. Belichick, who’s been uncharacteristically complimentary this summer, said as much earlier this week in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio.
“We don’t want balls being caught on us, period,” Richards said. “We don’t care if it’s (Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski) or some dude in the stands. We don’t want to see people catch the football.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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