FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots tight end Stephen Anderson has seen both sides of the NFL, which is to say he’s seen life with the Patriots and life with one of other NFL’s 31 franchises.
Anderson spent his first two seasons with the Houston Texans. He played in 30 games, including two postseason contests, and caught 36 passes for 435 yards with two touchdowns.
He didn’t play a single snap with the Patriots this season, spending most of the year on the team’s practice squad. Still, he said he experienced his “most improved year” while imitating tight ends like Travis Kelce and Eric Ebron.
Most players who come to New England with experience in another franchise are hesitant to make comparisons. Not Anderson, who thoroughly explained what makes the Patriots different.
“I believe after being in Houston, New England practices like no other team,” Anderson said before the Patriots won Super Bowl LIII. “We come to work every single week. It’s not just, ‘OK, it’s getting towards the end of the regular season, we’re going to like, cool down.’ Like, no, it’s work, work, work, work, work.”
And the Texans are a team with New England ties. Houston head coach Bill O’Brien started his NFL career as a Patriots assistant.
Since Bill Belichick took over as Patriots head coach in 2000, New England has appeared in almost half of the Super Bowls (nine of 19) and won nearly a third of them(six). No other team has won more than two Super Bowls or appeared in more than three in that time span.
Part of what makes the Patriots so successful is everyone’s willingness to buy in. Anderson was asked if he was surprised tight end Rob Gronkowski is so accommodating to younger players.
“I’m surprised by basically everybody,” Anderson said. “Everybody’s so down to earth, it’s all about the team. There’s no prima donnas here. There’s no guys who are above putting in the work. There’s no guys taking reps off in practice or anything like that. Just not only Rob (Gronkowski) but everybody is surprising, like Tom (Brady), like, this is his ninth Super Bowl. He has every reason to not play anymore, take a rep off, but he’s pushing himself to a level that nobody’s been on, and even that is hard to do because he’s Tom Brady.
“When he walks in the room, you want to stand up. Just seeing a guy of that caliber come to work every day and put in the work every day has been amazing at that age. It’s amazing. It’s great. It’s inspiring to better myself and to push myself to limits I’ve never been before.”
None of this comes as much of a surprise, but it is an interesting perspective from Anderson, who played alongside some of the NFL’s biggest superstars with the Texans.