PLYMOUTH, Mass. — Kendrick Bourne’s first season with the New England Patriots was the best of his NFL career.
He’s expecting an even more impressive encore — from both himself and the Patriots’ second-year quarterback, Mac Jones.
Speaking with NESN.com on Thursday, Bourne said he and Jones both are feeling more confident and comfortable as they enter their respective second seasons in New England. The two developed a strong on-field connection in 2021, resulting in a career-best 55-800-5 receiving line for the veteran wideout.
“Just a lot of confidence, man,” Bourne said ahead of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts Golf Classic at Pinehills Golf Club. “Like for me: It’s my second year with the team, his second year with the team. Just a lot more comfortable, man, knowing what to do. I mean, we do have a new system, but (Jones is) just comfortable in the NFL, in those big games. Just a lot more comfortable, man, and knowing what’s going on.
“(Jones) is over that rookie wave, and now it’s on to his second year. It’s going to be better, man. For myself, for a lot of us new guys that are going into their second year. So it’s going to be exciting.”
That new system Bourne mentioned is a key variable for the Patriots as they prepare for the 2022 campaign. New England lost longtime coordinator Josh McDaniels and four other offensive assistants over the offseason, and Bourne said the newly assembled staff — spearheaded by quarterbacks coach Joe Judge, offensive line coach Matt Patricia and head coach Bill Belichick, with the play-caller still unknown — has introduced different verbiage than what was used during McDaniels’ tenure.
Bourne often praised McDaniels last season, enjoying how the latter utilized him as a rusher (12 carries, 125 yards) and passer (one 25-yard touchdown pass) for the first time in his NFL career. But he said he’s “embracing” the new scheme.
“New words, new terminology. That’s the biggest thing,” the receiver said. “Football is football; I say it all the time. It’s lines on the paper, and you follow the lines, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to be a football player, and you have to sometimes adjust. You can’t just follow the exact line and get covered. You have to be a savvy football player.
“I’m getting paid to use my ability, and they put me in position to use my ability. So once I’m in position and know what I’m doing, now it’s time to use my ability, and that’s the biggest thing. So (I’m) learning the new terms and just building that relationship with the new coaches.”
Coming over in free agency after four years with the San Francisco 49ers, Bourne was the Patriots’ top big-play threat last season, averaging 14.5 yards per catch. His 11.4 yards-per-target average was second-best among all NFL receivers with at least 40 targets, trailing only first-team All-Pro Deebo Samuel, and his 78.6% catch rate ranked third.
Bourne now will look to expand his impact in a deep Patriots receiving corps that features fellow holdovers Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor, veteran newcomer DeVante Parker and second-round rookie Tyquan Thornton. He said his primary goal this offseason was to become more explosive.
“I really focused on my explosion,” Bourne said. “Just jumping — reaction jumping. Like, if the ball’s high in the air, I have to be able to just react. I can’t think about it. My mind and body have to be in sync. That’s one of the biggest things (I worked on).”
He added: “(I’m playing) kind of the same role, just using me in a lot of different ways. But a lot more explosion. I feel like I’m a lot stronger. I’m getting better as the years go on, man, and I’m just a lot more comfortable with New England. Just playing with a lot more confidence this year, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m excited.”
Bourne also spoke about his connection to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, which pairs adults with kids and teens to provide mentorship and support. This was the wideout’s second consecutive year attending the nonprofit’s annual golf event, and he said he plans to become an official “big” in the near future.
“It’s just huge, at all ages,” Bourne said. “Kids think they know everything. Teenagers definitely think they know everything — think they know their future, think they know what’s coming — and they honestly don’t. And having an adult mentor in your life, they’ve been through obstacles, been through trials already to help those young kids avoid the bumps in the road. I’ve definitely been helped avoiding a lot of bumps, and it got me to this point.
“So if I can help a kid get to the league, make it to a college scholarship, whatever it may be — just to help him make those right decisions in those tough moments, I think that’s the biggest thing. I had a lot of people watching me and altering my decisions, and that’s the biggest thing. When I was alone in high school and at a point where I wanted to do something bad and then thinking about the consequence because I was taught right by someone is just the biggest thing.”
Patriots tight end Devin Asiasi also was on hand Thursday. The two signed autographs and met with young mentees before playing a round of golf.
“Just giving back to the community, honestly, first and foremost,” Bourne said. “Spread love to the kids. … Just to talk to them, see them. Give them some of my energy, see how I am, touch me, see me, not just see me behind the screen. It’s dope just meeting the bigs and getting to know how to mentor more. Seeing other people, learning from other people. Because I’m going to be a big (brother), and once I get my little, I want to do it right.
“And I just had a lot of mentorship in my life. My dad, my uncles, one of my high school coaches — (they) were huge in my life, so just to be able to give my time back and show that I can be a mentor in my own way without even being a big yet officially. It’s just dope to give back.”