WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Nineteen months after signing with the Patriots, Raekwon McMillan finally will make his regular-season New England debut this weekend.
To say he’s excited would be an understatement.
McMillan, whose 2021 season was lost to a torn ACL, can’t wait to take the field Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. That it’ll be against his former team, the Miami Dolphins, only heightens his anticipation.
“It’s been a long time coming, and I’m excited because I get to do it in the first stadium that I started in in Miami,” the veteran linebacker said before Friday’s practice at Palm Beach Atlantic University. “But I’m just excited to get out there with the guys, man, show what I can do. Go out there, have fun and play ball.
“Everybody’s writing about what I can do, what I can be, but I’m excited to go show it.”
After spending all of last season on injured reserve, McMillan now projects as a major contributor in New England’s overhauled linebacking corps. The 26-year-old repped with the first-team defense for much of training camp and could start at inside linebacker alongside co-captain Ja’Whaun Bentley.
Looking to get younger and faster at linebacker after a dismal end to the 2021 campaign, the Patriots shipped out aging Super Bowl winners Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins this offseason. They’ll be relying on players like McMillan and trade acquisition Mack Wilson to provide that desired speed and playmaking ability.
“I think we’ve done a good job of figuring out how each guy can help this defense in any particular way,” McMillan said. “… We have the same level of expectation for everybody. We run to the ball. We play hard. Starting with Bent, me, Mack, (Jahlani) Tavai — we’re the guys out there the majority of the time, and we just do a good job of helping each other and learning this defense, because we’ve got to show up Week 1. It’s a big week.”