FOXBOROUGH — Michael Hoomanawanui knows he’s not the Rob Gronkowski/Jimmy Graham type tight end, catching dozens of passes each season and setting records at the position.
He’s not saying he wouldn’t like to be a guy like that — almost anyone would — but Hoomanawanui has carved out a place on the Patriots roster by becoming a dependable, do-it-all type of player.
That flexibility and team-first attitude were rewarded in March when the Patriots re-signed him to a two-year contract.
“No place I wanted to be more than here,” Hoomanawanui said Thursday morning at Gillette Stadium, still sweaty from his workout. “I’m going into my fourth year in this offense [he spent one year with Josh McDaniels in St. Louis], that definitely helps.
“This offseason, helping the other guys, taking on a leadership role, going into my fifth year — it sounds crazy to say that, but it’s been a blessing.”
Getting a new contract was just one big event for the 25-year-old this offseason. He also flew with the Blue Angels just days before re-upping with New England, and on July 12 he is set to get married.
With a bit of stability now, Hoomanawanui has enjoyed taking on more responsibility within the team.
“It’s not necessarily something you sit down and they say, ‘do this’ or ‘do more of that,’ it’s just something you grow into going into your fifth year or being a ‘veteran’ guy around,” he said. “We’ve been with the rookies for a week now and it’s kind of funny to look back and remember where you were when you were a rookie and the struggles that they go through, the long days, the long meeting times. People don’t realize, there’s a lot of meeting time for them.
“You’re only on the field for a couple of hours, and the day’s long, you have to do something with it, so you put a lot of meeting time in there, workouts, just training yourself to get on a schedule.
“That’s the biggest thing the first couple of weeks, and obviously the playbook and spending a lot of time on your own are others. You can only get so much meeting time at the stadium, but when you get home, it’s on you.”
With Aaron Hernandez gone and Gronkowski available for only a fraction of the season, it was assumed that Hoomanawanui would see his receptions rise last season. Though technically they did — he had 12 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown, after only five in his first Patriots season, 2012 — it was still a modest contribution.
But Hoomanawanui has shown that he can make plays and make tough catches, and he’d like to contribute more.
“Who doesn’t want to be that guy?” he said. “Spent a lot of time this offseason looking at the best tight ends in the league, and hopefully we can learn from that, myself and other guys. Hopefully we can put that in the toolbox.
“I realize my role in the passing game hasn’t been what Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski have done, but it’s definitely something I’m working on and hopefully can be a part of this season.”
Asked what he’s been working on, Hoomanawanui said there’s no shortage of bases to cover.
“There’s a million things that go into it — running a route the right way, reading defenses, getting open on the top of routes, releases . . . there’s so many things,” he said. “So take something each day and put it in that toolbox and hopefully get better at it.”
Though it’s early, Hoomanawanui said it’s been an adjustment having Brian Daboll move into the role of tight ends coach, as he has a different style than George Godsey, who has moved on to Houston as quarterbacks coach. Because Godsey is a former college quarterback, Hoomanawanui said, he offered a different perspective on the field and in the film room.
As someone who plays on the line at times, Hoomanawanui is also learning about new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.
“He’s very in-your-face, very loud,” said Hoomanawanui with a laugh, agreeing that DeGuglielmo isn’t much different from recently retired coach Dante Scarnecchia in that way.
“That’s good. He’s going to get the best out of his players.”
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The Patriots made a few minor roster moves, signing first-year defensive back Daxton Swanson and rookie free agent defensive lineman L.T. Tuipulotu. They also released rookie free agent safety Jeremy Deering and first-year wide receiver Greg Orton.