When the Patriots take the field this season, they’ll do so without Ivan Fears on the sideline for the first time in over 20 years.
Fears, New England’s longtime running backs coach, confirmed his retirement Tuesday in a conversation with Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. Rumors of the 67-year-old potentially calling it a career have been floating around since the end of last season, but now it’s official.
However, Fears recently was spotted watching Patriots OTAs practice from afar and again was present for Tuesday’s minicamp opener. While talking with Guregian, Fears said he still is offering “tidbits” to players and didn’t entirely dismiss the notion of being a running backs consultant this season.
Patriots players won’t complain if Fears sticks around for a little while longer.
“He loves the game,” Rhamondre Stevenson said after Tuesday’s practice. “It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t see him … honestly. It’s just great seeing him around. I still talk to him. He’s still in everyone’s ear, things like that.”
Famous for his passionate, no-nonsense coaching style and incredible press conference quotes (just ask Stevenson), Fears’ consistent presence certainly will be missed at One Patriot Place. That said, it sounds like he still could show his face from time to time.
Fears served as a receiver coach for the Patriots from 1991 through 1992 before spending six seasons with the Chicago Bears. He returned to New England in 1999 and coached receivers for three seasons, transitioning to running backs coach for the 2002 campaign and holding the position for 20 years.
While nothing’s been made official, Vinnie Sunseri is expected to assume the role of primary running backs coach.