MIAMI — Jordan Matthews spent just a few short months with the New England Patriots. But in that brief time, the veteran wide receiver learned lessons that continue to inspire him to this day.
One such lesson involved another Patriots wideout: Julian Edelman.
Early in the 2018 NFL season, Matthews trained with Edelman away from Gillette Stadium. The former had been released with an injury settlement after spending spring practice and the start of training camp with the Patriots. The latter was barred from the team facility while he served a four-game PED suspension.
“I learned a ton about preparation from Julian Edelman,” Matthews, who’s now with the San Francisco 49ers, recalled Monday during Super Bowl LIV Opening Night. “When I got released, originally I signed an injury settlement. I signed a two-week injury settlement, so I was potentially going to be able to sign back with the Patriots after Week 3. And for all intents and purposes, that’s what me and my family had planned to do. I was still living in Boston, and I was still training out there. …
“During that time, Julian Edelman was serving a suspension. And I’ll never forget, we (met up at Boston College) to go run routes one day, and I come out there (with) my cleats, shirt, shorts. Then I see Julian Edelman come out, and he throws down this huge bag. He’s got pads, a helmet, gloves. I was like, ‘This guy is working on a totally different level than I am.’ He’s getting ready to play the game. I’m in here just trying to stay in shape. So now, any time I go do routes in the offseason, no matter what month, I’ve got my helmet and shoulder pads on. That’s something I’ll always keep from Julian. He had a real big impact on me. I love him as a player.”
Looks like Julian Edelman and Jordan Matthews were working out together yesterday at BC. Matthews has yet to sign with a team since being released by the Patriots last month. pic.twitter.com/oDP9WV0yhq
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) September 16, 2018
Matthews, who was rehabbing an injured hamstring at the time, said he likely would have re-signed with New England had his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, not offered him a contract after Week 2. He never played in a game for the Patriots but spoke glowingly about his interactions with head coach Bill Belichick.
“I learned a lot, man,” Matthews said. “I learned the value of hard work at a totally different level. I learned that you can’t always — like, instant gratification, don’t look for that. It’s about going to work. And I think (in) the culture that we grow up in now, so many kids are used to, ‘OK, I played a good game. Let me tweet the picture so people can like it.’ We’re all in this race to have somebody tell us how good of a job we did. Let me tell you something: You’ve got to do your job great time in and time out before Bill is going to come over to you and say, ‘Hey, I like how you’re playing.’
“And that’s not any shade on Bill. I think that’s the way that it should be, because that’s life. You guys have probably been working your jobs for years, and it takes a long time to be noticed or recognized, probably, by your bosses. That’s how Bill wants stuff to be run. He wants it to be run like real life, and he wants to teach guys the value of hard work. So I learned that at a high level.”
This season has tested Matthews’ will to work. The 27-year-old been released three times (twice by the Niners, once by the Eagles) and has appeared in just three games, all of which came before the end of November. He has yet to catch a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo and likely be a healthy scratch Sunday when the 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.
Still, the ex-Patriot maintains a positive outlook.
“For the bulk of my time (in San Francisco), I’ve been inactive,” Matthews said. “Sometimes, I think for a lot of guys, they may look at that as kind of a downer. They might not feel a part (of the team). But one thing about this team is they do an amazing job of helping you feel like you’re part of the guys. (49ers coach) Kyle Shanahan sees you, and I think that’s his best trait — his authenticity. He makes everybody in that building feel like they are a part of what’s going on.
“So I’ve just used this opportunity to continue to learn, continue to grow, continue to get better so hopefully next time that I’m in this situation, I’m back as a starter for a team. I haven’t lost any of my drive, haven’t lost any of my goals.”