It’s been months since David Andrews or James Develin appeared in a game for the New England Patriots. Blood clots ended the former’s season before it began, and a neck injury suffered in Week 2 shelved the latter until 2020.
Both have been forced to watch while New England attempts to defend its latest Super Bowl championship. But they haven’t just been watching.
Andrews, the Patriots’ usual starting center, and Develin, their Pro Bowl-caliber fullback, both have remained actively involved with the team since landing on injured reserve in late August and mid-September, respectively.
Andrews has attended every practice this season, assisting offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and helping tutor a unit that’s battled injuries and inconsistency. Both players travel to road games, with Develin taking the field hours before kickoff to run sprints.
Don’t tell James Develin he’s on IR. He just ran through a pregame workout so strenuous that he sweat straight through his hoodie. pic.twitter.com/odAI2gFoQc
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) November 3, 2019
It’s common for injured players to rehab at the team facility while on IR, but they rarely take on such prominent non-playing roles. That Andrews and Develin have been so hands-on speaks to their leadership and character, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
“Those two players have been great,” Belichick said earlier this week. “I can’t say enough about how much they’ve added to our football team and to many of the individual players that they interact with — not just the ones at their position, but other players on the team at other positions. They’re both very positive and team-first-oriented and will do whatever they can to help the football team, and they do it on a daily basis. They’re not just kind of hanging around and sitting back and watching everybody else do things.
“They’re active, and they know exactly what the game plan is — what we’re trying to do — and they’ve had experience doing it, more so than some of the people that are actually doing it. And in a good, positive way, they’re able to encourage and give information and give coaching points and positive feedback to the guys in that position and also to the team as a whole, not just individually but collectively with the offense or special teams or the defense — whatever it is. They’re very good about that.”
Andrews is in his third season as a Patriots co-captain, his teammates voting him in even after he was ruled out for the year. Develin never has been a team captain but is one of New England’s most respected locker room figures. Before their respective ailments, the pair had combined to miss just two games (both by Andrews) over the previous three seasons.
“David’s in the captains meetings every week, and he has a lot of great input in there, as all of the other six guys do, as well,” Belichick said. “But David’s very much a part of that. If you were to sit in on those meetings, you wouldn’t be able to tell that he was the only one that wasn’t on the active roster because of the way he’s engaged and his attitude and understanding and outlook on the game. He prepares just like all the other guys do that are actually going to be playing, and I think that’s why he’s so respected. When he speaks, we all listen — I listen to him, the players listen to him.
“The same thing with James Develin. Neither one of those guys is a real loud-type personality. They do things in sometimes a way that’s not flamboyant or outspoken, but they get their message across, and people listen to them when they speak because of the respect that we all have for them. So they’ve done an absolutely fabulous job of supporting the team and helping the team this year, even though they haven’t … been able to play significantly this year.”
Veteran Ted Karras slotted into Andrews’ spot at center and has been solid this season, save for the one game he missed with a knee injury. It took the Patriots longer to find a competent replacement for Develin — International Pathway player Jakob Johnson showed promise, then landed on IR in mid-October — but linebacker Elandon Roberts has performed surprisingly well in that role in recent weeks.
Having the starters around as de facto assistant coaches certainly hasn’t hurt.
“We were very welcoming and supportive of their intention to do that, and it’s worked out great,” Belichick said. “I think it’s worked out great for the team, and I think they’ve enjoyed — certainly, they’d rather be playing, but they’ve enjoyed the opportunity to still have the type of involvement they have with the team.”