FOXBOROUGH - When Justin Francis, one of the Patriots’ seven undrafted rookies, signed with the team, he immediately had a built-in support system.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 275-pound defensive lineman played with Devin McCourty and Alex Silvestro at Rutgers, and is also good friends with New England’s newest coaching assistant, Steve Belichick.
“Steve’s been a great friend for me for quite some time,’’ Francis said, noting that the two met in math class several years ago and struck up a quick friendship. “He’s guiding me along, keeping me on a good, straight path. Can’t ask for more than that.’’
Does he now see his friend as one of his bosses?
“I do actually, and it’s kind of weird,’’ Francis said, a wide smile taking over his face. “But like I said, he’s a good friend and I know he’s never going to direct me in the wrong path or anything, so I take that and I keep that.
“I’ll always respect him. I respect his job and I respect him as a friend as well.’’
Patriots coach Bill Belichick spent a good amount of time on the Rutgers campus in recent years, as Steve was on the lacrosse team for four years and a walk-on long snapper with Greg Schiano’s football team last fall. Bill Belichick and Schiano have a professional relationship that has led to several Scarlet Knights coming to New England.
Knowing Steve and Bill, Francis does see the similarities, noting that Steve is steady, like his famous father.
As Francis starts learning the playbook (which he called “ginormous’’), he is getting encouragement from Steve, and he talks with Silvestro and McCourty.
“I sit and talk with Alex Silvestro every day,’’ Francis said. “I haven’t run into Devin yet, but I was talking with him on the phone last night, he’s doing the same thing, staying in my ear.
“I’m going to sit down and pick his brain a little bit, picking Alex’s brain every day, doing everything I can to better myself and better this organization.’’
Last season, Francis played in all 12 games, with 60 tackles, 5 1/2 sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery, and five pass breakups.
Receiver Chad Ochocinco penned an open letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, which he posted on his website.
Though Ochocinco has been fined several times for his over-the-top end zone celebrations, he maintains that he has a father-son relationship with Goodell.
Calling this “a crucial point in the history of football’’ after Junior Seau’s suicide, concussion lawsuits against the league, and the Saints bounty saga, Ochocinco wrote that he wanted to reach out and be the first to show support for Goodell.
“This has got to be the worst week ever,’’ he wrote. “You are in one big Catch-22 quite frankly, I am not sure there is any solution. One thing I think can help is killing the NFL PR machine.
“Y’all do a darn near perfect job at portraying this game as one played by heroes. But let’s be real dad. This is a nasty, dirty and violent game with consequences. Sign up or go get a regular job. Watch it or turn off the TV and go fishing with your kids. It is really that simple.
“I know there are probably legal and financial implications that prevent this blunt depiction, but am not sure if you have a choice. If you don’t say it now, the mounting evidence being revealed publicly will say it for you very soon.’’
Ochocinco concluded by saying that he is planning on having a rebound year and will be doing a lot of celebrating in the end zone, and asks that his fine money go toward supporting ex-players who are suffering.
During the little of Saturday’s practice the media were able to see, defensive back/special teamer Nate Ebner was limited for the second straight day because of an undisclosed injury. Players were in helmets, after not wearing them Friday . . . Chris Simms, who has been hired by the team in a nebulous role, was present on the fields. It is believed that Simms will work in scouting but possibly in coaching as well.Shalise Manza Young can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.