Two months ago, running back James White officially re-signed with the New England Patriots.
On Tuesday, he explained why.
Speaking with reporters for the first time since his brief foray into free agency concluded, the three-time Super Bowl champion pointed to familiarity as one of the main reasons he chose to remain in New England.
“I’m just very familiar with everybody,” White said in a video conference. “They always put me in a position to succeed. And being back around these guys in the locker room, we have a great group of guys that have helped me shape the person and the player that I am today — the coaches and the players. So it was only right to come back and compete.”
Since White signed his second NFL contract before his rookie deal expired, this was his first time experiencing free agency.
“It’s definitely a different experience,” he explained. “Obviously, with COVID and everything, too, it’s a little different with that and the (lower) salary cap and all that. But it’s good to be back, seeing familiar faces in guys that I know. (I’m excited to) get back in the locker room with these guys, bounce back and do better than we did last year and improve from it.”
White spent roughly 10 days on the open market in mid-March, reportedly drawing interest from multiple teams — including Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers — before agreeing to re-sign with the Patriots.
“Free agency is really strange, honestly,” said White, who’s back on a one-year, $2.5 million contract. “Day to day, everything kind of changed a little bit. Some days, a team may have interest; the next day, they may not; and the day, they might have interest (again). So it’s a little different than you can ever imagine. It’s a lot of worrying what’s going to be next and where you’re going to be at next.
“But obviously, the Patriots were in the mix the whole time, and it’s good to be back and get back with these guys and just find a way to improve. And it starts now.”
Before the Patriots re-signed White and fellow team captains David Andrews and Lawrence Guy, they revamped their roster with external additions, bringing in more than a dozen veterans in the opening days of free agency.
White said the team’s spending spree didn’t necessarily influence his decision to return.
“I think what it comes to is you have to make a decision that’s best for yourself and your family,” he said. “Me myself, having a wife and two kids, you just try to make the most informed decision and keep them in mind when you’re making that decision. So I think that’s what was most important when it came to my decision making.
“It’s good to be back here, a place I’m very familiar with, obviously. It’s good to be back.”
The 29-year-old White said he’s “definitely blessed” to have spent his entire career to date with one franchise. The Patriots drafted him in the fourth round in 2014.
Last season — White’s seventh with the team — was the Patriots’ worst in 20 years, with New England finishing 7-9 and missing the playoffs. White, who reached the AFC Championship Game or Super Bowl in each of his first five pro seasons, stressed the need for improvement throughout Tuesday’s call.
“I think you’re always excited about (a new season), and I think everybody’s probably extra excited because obviously, we didn’t perform our best last year,” White said. “Everybody’s excited, chomping at the bit to get back out there and just be better. Compete in practice, compete in games and just make each other better. It’s all about improvement.”