“With it being a rumor, you know, ‘It’s hard in New England, nobody wants to go there’ — that’s what I accepted.”
Like any player who chooses to join the Patriots, Kendrick Bourne last spring did so knowing the difficulties that lied ahead. Playing for Bill Belichick might be the hardest job in the NFL, and not every player is cut out for it. Even those who are cut out for it (Darelle Revis) sometimes flat-out hate life in New England.
And then there are players like Bourne, who fully embrace the rigors of Foxboro and use them to take their games to higher levels.
Bourne, exuberant on and off the field, has emerged this season as one of New England’s most dynamic offensive weapons, becoming a favorite of both fans and teammates. He’s borderline buddy-buddy with Belichick.
Over his first 12 games, the former San Francisco 49er racked up 42 catches for 623 yards and five touchdowns to go along with 78 rushing yards and a passing touchdown. Following last Sunday’s win over the Tennessee Titans, the 26-year-old credited Belichick and the Patriots coaching staff for teaching him how to be a better ball-handler.
“It’s just dope how they’re developing me,” he said.
On Friday, ahead of the Patriots’ Monday night matchup with the Buffalo Bills, Bourne was asked whether players can do things to improve their run-after-the-catch ability. He used it as an opportunity to further praise his new head coach.
“When I first got here … I kinda was running with the ball, kinda, in my way, my technique of doing just how I’ve grown up playing,” Bourne said. “And Bill … he showed me techniques that I’ve never been taught before. And this is how I know Bill is special. He just puts us through certain drills that just show us how to run with the ball. And I really emphasized working on those drills when I’m doing them — trying to simulate game-like reality. And the more I did it at practice … it just happens in the game. And that’s what it really comes down to. Bill’s philosophy here — it just enhanced me in an amazing, rapid rate.
” … When I got over here, I’m like, ‘Man, what could I possibly learn after four years of being in the league?’ But (Belichick) taught me things that I’ve never even drilled before. And I’m like, ‘Man, this is different.’ … I’m just glad how Bill does things over here, and it shows in the game when I get there, I see the drills that we do and it makes me run the ball better.”
Bourne is eager to note that he still has much to learn and work on. It wasn’t long ago that the fifth-year pro looked somewhat unsure of himself in New England’s offense, and he even was benched after fumbling during the Oct. 31 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Bourne only is scratching the surface of what he’s capable of with the Patriots. His talent, work ethic and chemistry with rookie quarterback Mac Jones indicate the best is yet to come from a player who already might be New England’s top wideout.
“I can still get better. … I just play hard, let the game come to me and make the most of the opportunities that come.