FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots traded for Shaun Wade on Aug. 26. On Aug. 31, the rookie cornerback played 45 total snaps in New England’s preseason finale.
Talk about a quick turnaround.
“They taught me the three calls that I needed to know,” Wade said Thursday in his first meeting with New England reporters. “I played those three calls and just had fun out there.”
Baltimore drafted Wade in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, but his Ravens tenure was fleeting. Flush with cornerback depth, John Harbaugh’s club traded the Ohio State product to the corner-needy Patriots, who were preparing to enter the season without top cover man Stephon Gilmore.
Initially, that transaction was tough for Wade to process.
“It was a crazy reaction,” he recalled. “I was at practice with the Ravens, I forget what day it was. Coach Harbaugh came to me, and he was like, ‘We’re going to trade you.’ My mind was just everywhere. I didn’t know where to go with my mind. I had an apartment down there (in Baltimore), I was settled down there, and it just happened.
“I flew here that next day, flew into Providence, came up here … and I’m on a new team now. It’s time to grind, get to know the different people on the team, on the staff, and just learn from Gilmore, J.C. (Jackson) and (Jalen) Mills.”
How difficult is it to join a new team with a week remaining in your rookie preseason? Wade didn’t sugarcoat it.
“That adjustment, I’m not going to lie, it’s very, very hard,” he said. “Just going to Baltimore and learning their defense and how they play, how they practice, and coming here, it’s a totally different atmosphere. They practice different, they lift different here, the coaches are different here, the system is different here. It’s just something that I have to adjust to, and that’s a part of life. You’ve got to adjust in life, and this is just something I’ve got to adjust to to get to where I want in my goals.”
As Wade noted, he hasn’t just needed to learn a new playbook in New England. He’s had to adjust to a new routine, a new environment, even a new weightlifting strategy.
“Here, we do a lot of legs,” he explained. “In Baltimore, they do single legs, single arms and stuff like that. Here, you do a lot of legs. You bench and things like that, but every day is definitely a leg day here. I see they really want to work on your explosion here. That’s the No. 1 thing. Practice-wise, it’s kind of the same, because you’ve got a lot of guys that are vets and they’re very intense. It’s just probably harder in Baltimore, that would be the little difference. Meeting-wise, it’s probably the same.
“Lifting’s probably the most different thing, and the playbook, because it’s different language.”
Wade said Gilmore — who is on the physically unable to perform list and can’t play until Week 7 — and the rest of the Patriots’ defensive backs have been very welcoming. He interacted with Patriots cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino multiple times during the pre-draft process, giving him a glimpse into New England’s culture.
“I just knew that you win here, and I’m a winner,” said Wade, who was viewed as a likely first-round prospect before a rough 2020 season tanked his draft stock. “I won four state championships, a little league (football) national championship, all Big Ten championships. I’m a winner, and all I care about is winning. So I’m on a winning program, and right now, all I care about is winning.”
Wade has yet to play a regular-season snap for the Patriots — he was a healthy scratch for Sunday’s season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins — but he seems to be making a good impression thus far. Head coach Bill Belichick praised his ability to learn new concepts, Adrian Phillips said his talent was “immediately” apparent, and special teams captain Matthew Slater said he’s come in with the proper work ethic.
“He’s been a really good kid to have around,” Slater said Thursday. “His effort in practice has been fantastic. Obviously, he’s very talented. But he’s worked really hard at it. It’s tough as a rookie when you come to a new team towards the end of training camp, trying to get to know guys, trying to learn the defense itself, but he’s done a good job. He’s a quiet kid, kind of sticks to himself, but we’re excited to have him here.”
Mills has been the Patriots’ top Gilmore replacement thus far, with third-year pro Joejuan Williams also seeing action in that role. It’s possible Wade could work his way into that mix if he continues to improve.