FOXBOROUGH — Jamie Collins and the New England Patriots didn’t part on good terms. The Patriots traded the former second-round pick to Cleveland on Halloween 2016, and subsequent reports indicated mutual frustration between the two sides.
Two and a half years later, Collins is back.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound linebacker signed a one-year deal to return to his former team last week after being released by the Cleveland Browns in March. It was an unexpected move, given everything that had transpired, and Collins himself admitted on Thursday that he was surprised when the Patriots came calling.
But when it came to making a decision, he couldn’t let past grievances dictate his future.
“It’s not just about me, I’ve got a family, I’ve got a wife and kids, so I always have to think about them as well,” Collins said. “I can’t just make decisions based on myself.”
Whatever issues the Patriots and Collins had, it’s all water under the bridge now. The Patriots needed talent at linebacker, and Collins represented a low-risk, high-reward option who was familiar with the team’s system. Collins, meanwhile, was looking for a good situation after two and a half up and down years with the Browns, and the Patriots offered the best fit.
“It’s football at the end of the day, and it’s business,” Collins said. “I come in here and handle my business just like anywhere else I go.”
Football is a business, and Collins learned harder than most how cutthroat the business can be. After being traded to Cleveland on Oct. 31, 2016, the Patriots went on to play in three straight Super Bowls — winning two — while Collins found himself stuck in football Siberia. The Browns went 8-31-1 during his tenure, and Collins endured injury and up-and-down play before being cut two seasons into his four-year, $50 million deal.
The experience was often difficult, but Collins said it taught him resilience and the importance of handling your own business despite whatever else might be going on. He came back to that point repeatedly throughout his four-minute scrum with reporters, particularly when asked for his thoughts about the day he was traded.
“It was just a change in destination, I’m a professional and I’ve got to be professional about the business,” Collins said. “Business is business, you can’t be upset through this or that, I just tried to pick up where I left off and move on.”
Collins is taking a similar approach to his return to New England. Is he happy to be back? Yes. Is he excited to be reunited with Dont’a Hightower and for new inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo? Of course. But at the end of the day, they all have a job to do, one the soon-to-be 30-year-old is determined to do.
“I can’t fold, I can’t give up, because it’s not about me,” Collins said. “I’ve got to keep pushing no matter what.”
- Chung misses practice: After appearing in Monday’s practice video posted online by the team, safety Patrick Chung was absent from Thursday’s OTA. Other notable absences included Tom Brady, Isaiah Wynn, Sony Michel, Deatrich Wise, Kyle Van Noy, Yodny Cajuste, Michael Bennett, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Demaryius Thomas and Ryan Allen.
- Harry’s big day: First-round pick N’Keal Harry had an impressive first showing at practice, making two great contested catches over double coverage during live 11 on 11 drills. Adam Butler had the play of the day, picking off Brian Hoyer and taking it 85 yards to the house, and rookie Joejuan Williams also intercepted Jarrett Stidham on the final throw of the drill.
- Thuney fills in: With projected starter Isaiah Wynn absent and veteran tackle Jared Veldheer opting to retire, the Patriots plugged starting left guard Joe Thuney in at left tackle for a number of reps. Thuney played left tackle at North Carolina State, and he split first-team reps with reserve tackle Cole Croston on Thursday.
- Bailey impresses: Rookie punter Jake Bailey had the field to himself with incumbent Ryan Allen absent, and he made a great impression. Bailey had some booming kicks and showed a good touch, dropping quite a few punts inside the 10 by the corners.