Why Brandon Bolden Is ‘Inspiration’ To Patriots Teammates, Coaches

'Brandon's one of the best and always has been'


Dec 16, 2021

In 2019, after Brandon Bolden returned to New England following a one-year stint in Miami, Bill Belichick could hardly contain his excitement when discussing the veteran Patriots running back.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to have Brandon back,” Belichick said late in the 2019 season, “and I think our team and our coaching staff feels the same way.”

Two years later, that affection has not waned.

Back with the Patriots after opting out of the 2020 season, Bolden remains one of Belichick’s most adored players. And this season, he’s also become one of their most important.

Since a hip injury ended James White’s season in Week 3, Bolden, who typically contributes mostly on special teams, has served as New England’s top pass-catching back, hauling in 94.1% of his targets (32 of 34) and posting career numbers in White’s usual role.

“Brandon’s one of the best and always has been,” Belichick said. “(It was) great to get him back here. The couple years we didn’t have him, whether that was ’18 in Miami or last year on the opt-out, we certainly missed him and missed his leadership, his personality. He’s always about football, but he has a nice way of putting a smile on his face, cracking a joke, pointing out a mistake that I’ve made, whatever.

“He has a good personality that blends that serious, competitive business side with enjoying the process and enjoying what we do and giving us some of his best performances at the most critical times and biggest games when we needed him most. He’s always done that, whether it’s a couple plays a game or catching five or six passes in a game or taking over James’ role this year. He’s always ready to go, he’s dependable, he’s consistent.”

Bolden has played more offensive snaps through 13 games this season (224) than he did in his previous four seasons combined (175), not including his opt-out year. He’s also caught more than twice as many passes (32 to 15) and logged nearly as many carries (30 to 37). Eleven of his 18 receptions during the Patriots’ current seven-game winning streak have gained 8 or more yards, and five have gone for 20-plus.

White’s injury threatened to derail New England’s offensive plan, but the 31-year-old Bolden has proven to be a more than capable fill-in, while also serving as an example of what Belichick wants from his players.

“With a player like James White, it’s hard to get both of them in there at the same time,” Belichick said. “But then as soon as you need Brandon, this is where you really see his true value, professionalism and maturity as a player and as a person. And as far as leadership on the team, I think for any of us, whether you play running back, like (Rhamondre) Stevenson or (J.J.) Taylor — young guys like that couldn’t ask for a better role model than Brandon — but for anybody on the team. Whether it’s an offensive player, defensive player, coach — anybody.

“The way he goes about things, his consistency, his unselfishness, his ability to do whatever the team needs him to do, play tough, when he’s banged up, play in tough situations and come through is really an inspiration for all of us. He’s had a great year for us, and he’s really come through so many times, as he always has, when we’ve really needed him.”

Despite his greatly expanded offensive responsibilities, Bolden — Pro Football Focus’s 11th-highest-graded running back this season — also continues to be one of the Patriots’ most active special teamers. He ranks fifth in special teams snaps played behind fellow mainstays Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel, Cody Davis and Brandon King, which Belichick unsurprisingly appreciates.

“Everybody knows we can count on him, whether that’s in the kicking game or offensively catching the ball, blitz pickup or running the ball,” Belichick said. “I would say one of the most impressive things with Brandon this year with all that he’s done is his unwillingness to give up his role in the kicking game and to continue to excel in those four phases, where he’s outstanding.

“He hasn’t forced somebody else to step into that role. He’s maintained that role as well as taking on the bigger offensive role that he has, and that’s been a big commitment from him, both a time commitment in terms of practice and preparation and obviously a physical commitment. We’re very fortunate to have Brandon.”

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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