Joe Thuney knows where he’ll be Sept. 13 — hanging out in Foxborough and holding down a spot on the Patriots offensive line for the opener against the Dolphins.
What spot he’ll be manning? Well, that’s still to be determined.
New England’s stalwart left guard may be back in his familiar slot for a fifth straight season — he’s never missed a start — or he could line up in another position, say right tackle, where he’s made cameos in the past.
With starting right tackle Marcus Cannon opting out of the season, Thuney could be called upon to fill in on the right edge.
“Whatever can help the team,” Thuney said during a video call from Gillette Stadium Wednesday. “I think I got a couple snaps [against] Pittsburgh, our opening game last year. Wherever I can help the team out. It doesn’t matter where.”
Versatility has long been a quality the Patriots value, and preparation is something that is emphasized from the first day a player joins the organization. Those two qualities keep Thuney ready for anything.
“You’re dealing with different body types going from guard to end and then, you know, your legs and arms are reversed, I guess,” said Thuney of not only switching positions but switching sides. “Coaches do a great job of trying to get reps and everything at practice. We’ve got a lot of guys getting reps at different positions because you never know.
“You go into a game with seven O-linemen, usually. The more you can do, the better. Just try to keep the fundamentals the same. Just tried to do what I could.”
Many believed Thuney’s New England tenure was over after last season, as it was common knowledge that he’d be among the most coveted free agents in the league. The Patriots, however, valued his stability and reliability, slapping a $14.78 million franchise tag on the 27-year-old.
Although many players resent being tagged, Thuney wasn’t bothered at all and never considered holding out.
“No, I love it here,” he said. “I love the Patriots organization, my teammates, and everyone. So I’m glad to be here and I’m pumped for the season.”
Keeping it safe
The Gillette Stadium facilities have undergone a number of changes to accommodate coronavirus guidelines, and linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley appreciates the focus on player safety.
“This is Day 2 for us being here; we’re still feeling our way around,” said Bentley. “But you do feel safe, you do feel that there’s a conscious effort being made to make sure we feel as safe as possible. The stadium and things like that have changed in more ways than one; that’s definitely a positive thing.”
Cornerback Jonathan Jones agreed.
“As far as being in the facility, being in meetings and things like [that], they’ve gone to great lengths to make sure we’re safe in those regards,” said Jones.
Bentley said it’s going to take a leaguewide effort by players to follow the guidelines if they are to achieve the goal of an uninterrupted season.
“We have different procedures and stuff we have to follow in order to keep this thing going and keep everybody safe — and that’s a big thing,” said the third-year linebacker. “And it’s not only when you’re in the building. You have to proceed with that when you leave the building, also.
“Everyone’s counting on you to make the right decisions. Everybody — not even just our team, the whole league will count on each other to make good decisions so we can just be able to do this and be able to do it properly with everybody being safe.”
Knowledge to share
With Brian Belichick poised to take over the safety room, Jones said it’s the chance for the youngest Belichick to “be a little more vocal.” Brian has been a scouting and coaching assistant in the program since 2016 and now supplants his brother, Steve, who will coach the outside linebackers. “He’s grown up around ball,” Jones said of Brian. “His whole life has been football. So you get a lot of knowledge from him. He’s learned from being around football so much his entire life. So he definitely brings that facet to the game — and just another set of eyes on the game.”
A happier place
Thuney beamed throughout the interview, something he attributed to being back in his comfort zone. “I love being around the guys; I think we’ve got a great locker room,” he said. “You’re stuck in quarantine for several months and everyone is separate, you’re just doing Zoom meetings. It’s good to see everyone again. It’s like the first day of school coming back, trying to orient yourself.” … Receiver Mohamed Sanu passed his physical and was removed from the PUP list. He had ankle surgery in the offseason. Running back Sony Michel (foot) and coverage specialist Brandon King (quadriceps) are the only remaining Patriots on the list … The Patriots re-signed undrafted rookie receiver Isaiah Zuber. He had been cut during the original roster cutdown to 80 last month.