After a Patriots player is traded or signs elsewhere, he rarely speaks with New England media members en masse.
But that’s what cornerback Stephon Gilmore did Wednesday, participating in a 12-minute conference call with Patriots reporters ahead of Sunday’s Pats-Panthers matchup.
This will be Gilmore’s first game against his former team since being traded to Carolina on Oct. 6. And though the star cover man wasn’t particularly loquacious — there’s a reason teammates used to call him “a silent assassin” — he did provide some new and interesting details about his departure from Foxboro.
Here are six takeaways:
1. He didn’t appreciate the way the Patriots handled his quad injury
This was the biggest revelation from Gilmore’s call, as it had not been previously reported. He wouldn’t share specifics but said “a lot went on with that that I didn’t agree with.”
Gilmore partially tore his quad in Week 15 of last season. After undergoing offseason surgery, he reported to training camp and was placed on the physically unable to perform list — standard practice for players recovering from injuries. But, in a surprise move, the Patriots opted not to activate Gilmore off PUP by cutdown day, making him ineligible to play or practice for the first six weeks of the regular season.
“I wasn’t ready at the beginning of training camp,” Gilmore said. “I’ll be completely honest with you. But the only thing is I just didn’t like how they handled my situation with my injury. … I just didn?t agree with it. I’ll just put it behind me and get ready for this game.”
Since PUP designations transfer for traded players, Gilmore had to sit out his first two games after joining the Panthers. He made his Carolina debut Sunday, playing 17 defensive snaps and recording an interception in a win over the Atlanta Falcons.
2. He also was miffed about his contract
There was a financial element at play, too. Gilmore was unhappy with the terms of his Patriots deal, which was set to pay him just $7 million this season after he received a what amounted to a $5 million pay advance in September 2020.
“Yeah, (the contract) was a reason also, too, but a lot goes into it,” Gilmore said. “It’s not just one specific thing. At the end of the day, it’s a business. (The Patriots) treated it like a business, and we made the best decision for each other.”
Gilmore wouldn’t say why he’s willing to play on that same contract with Carolina, or whether he would have done so with New England after his PUP stint expired.
“I can’t answer that truthfully because I’m not there,” he said. “If I was on that same schedule, would I have played? I don’t know. I’m here now and I’m playing.”
3. He didn’t expect to be traded
Gilmore said the trade surprised him. News had broken earlier that day that the Patriots planned to release him, with head coach Bill Belichick saying in a statement that player and team “mutually agreed to part ways.”
New England wound up flipping the Rock Hill, S.C., to his hometown Panthers for next to nothing, receiving only a 2023 sixth-round draft pick in return.
“It happened last minute,” Gilmore said. “(Belichick) called me last minute. I was OK with it.”
4. He praised Bill Belichick as a coach
Speaking of Belichick, Gilmore was asked whether his relationship with his coach became “strained” during the twilight of his Patriots tenure.
“He’s a great coach,” Gilmore replied. “He does whatever he can to help his team win. He taught me a lot of football and how to be a better player and how to prepare. So as a coach, he helped me in a lot of ways.”
So, not a “No.” Gilmore can be both appreciative of Belichick’s coaching and unhappy with his handling of personnel matters.
Belichick shot down most Gilmore-related questions during his Wednesday presser but did reiterate that he has “a ton of respect” for the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
5. He’s a fan of Mac Jones
Gilmore praised the Patriots rookie, calling him a “great young quarterback” who will “be a good player in this league.” Though they play on opposite sides of the ball and never practiced against one another, Jones said Gilmore helped him a lot behind the scenes during training camp and the preseason.
“I try to help everybody,” Gilmore said. “Any help that I can (provide) for my teammates. Because at the end of the day, it’s relationships. I try to help guys be better players and teach them as much as I know, because when I was a young player, I had a lot of guys help me along the way also.”
“I don’t have added motivation,” Gilmore said. “… It will not be personal. I’m going to prepare like I do every week and study every week. I’m just going to play the game and try to play as fast as I can, because if you don’t do that, you’re not going to really focus on your job and what you have to do. That’s my focus this week.”