FOXBOROUGH — Anfernee Jennings spends close to 12 hours per day at One Patriot Place during training camp.
He arrives by 7 a.m., joins the team meeting at 7:30 and makes it to the practice field two hours later. Afterward, he attends more meetings until he exits at approximately 6:30 p.m.
And for the third-year linebacker, there’s probably no place he’d rather be.
Last year, Jennings’s grandfather died and he was excused from camp. On Aug. 31, Jennings was placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury that kept him out for the entire season.
Now, Jennings has a heightened appreciation for where he’s at, with his grandfather always on his mind.
“One of the biggest inspirations in my life,” Jennings said. “Just always reminiscing and thinking about how he loves this time of the year.
“Grew my love of football, so everyday I’m out here, I’m grateful and thankful for the opportunity.”
Jennings was a third-round pick in the 2020 draft with an impressive résumé of 194 tackles and 15½ sacks at Alabama. In his rookie season with the Patriots, he appeared in 14 games and recorded 20 tackles, six solo.
Many of the Patriots 2020 draftees said they finally feel comfortable after an unprecedented introduction to the league because of the pandemic, and the same is true for Jennings. Fellow linebacker Josh Uche and Jennings became friends and close teammates through their adjustment to the pros as members of the same draft class.
“Constantly talking about how we can get better, how we can improve, where we’re at versus where we were at when we came in,” Jennings said. “Just looking forward to our future. Looking forward to coming out here and working everyday.”
At 6 feet, 3 inches and 259 pounds, Jennings is a versatile athlete who gained reps on defense and special teams his rookie season. Under coach Nick Saban at Alabama, Jennings played a similar adaptable role on defense.
“It helps out as far as the schematics of the defense and just being able to do multiple different things instead of just being good at one,” Jennings said. “I like it.”
Off the field last season, Jennings said he spent a lot of time with linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who was on injured reserve with a torn ACL.
“We would go to each other’s house and catch our games and just talk ball and wish we were out there,” Jennings said.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the biggest thing for Jennings is being back at camp. Jennings had a standout day Saturday. In a three-play stretch, he zipped through the offensive line and pressured the quarterback.
“He’s working. Of course, if you’re working, you’re improving. It’s good to have him out there and he’s made progress every day,” Belichick said.
“He’ll get some good opportunities coming up in the near future along with some other guys in that position and we’ll see how it turns out. But it’s good to have him out there.”