FOXBOROUGH — The Jets are not the only ones pumped to see Aaron Rodgers land in the AFC East.
Ja’Whaun Bentley revealed Tuesday that he and his Patriots teammates are juiced for the opportunity to face the perennial Pro Bowl quarterback twice a year.
“Aaron Rodgers is definitely a fantastic quarterback for sure,” said Bentley, who led the Patriots with 125 tackles last season, including 10 in a game against Rodgers’s Packers. “He’s definitely going to add some things to the Jets as far as their offense is concerned. Hands down, it’s going to be a hell of an opportunity for us to go against him twice a year.
“But if you ask us, we’re excited about the opportunity. We have no choice but to be excited about it.”
Bentley, a two-time Patriots captain and the unquestioned leader of the linebacker room, is entrenched in the club’s offseason program. Now heading into his sixth season, Bentley said he’s like most NFL fans in that he keeps an eye on what teams are doing to prepare for the upcoming season.
“You’re always excited to see the different moves teams make,” he said. “Just adds competition around the league. I thrive off competition in general. So, especially in our division, seeing the different moves teams make always gets you excited about what’s to come.
“I’m always eager to get out there and see what the next team has and what they’re cooking up, so we have an opportunity to stop it.”
Stopping ball carriers is what Bentley has done consistently since being drafted out of Purdue, where he was the first player in program history to be a three-time captain. He has improved his numbers and expanded his responsibilities every season.
He attributes his success to coaching, film study, self-scouting, and leaning on his mentors.
“I would say I feel like every player’s goal is year in and year out to improve; I’ve made that my goal,” he said. “Not even from year to year but game to game, find that improvement and not let it be a cliché but to actually put action to it and critiquing yourself.
“A lot of people say they’re their own worst critic, but unless you show action behind it, it’s really just words.”
Bentley paid tribute to a pair of former teammates he called his “OGs” — Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins — for helping him learn how to become a professional.
“To play with both of those guys and to be my mentors … being able to grasp all the things they did and play alongside them — I learned a lot,” Bentley said. “I can’t say it enough. We still talk to this day.”
A wanted man
Prior to the matchup with the Lions in Week 5 last season, Bill Belichick called Detroit’s Chris Board the best special teams player the Patriots would face on their schedule. He described the linebacker as having “no weaknesses.”
After an abnormally rough season in the kicking game — the Patriots allowed three kick-return touchdowns — Belichick made Board a priority, signing him to a two-year deal worth up to $6.7 million.
“It meant a lot,” Board said of Belichick’s compliments. “Coach Belichick knows ball, and for him to say that it definitely meant a lot. I look forward to making a lot of plays here and helping us win football games.”
Board said the Patriots were not the only club to pursue him in free agency, but he sensed New England was the right place to set up shop.
“There was definitely an emphasis and a priority to get me here, which I really appreciated,” he said. “So that kind of went into the process of me deciding to sign here. I just appreciate the respect that I’ve had here so far.”
The Patriots re-signed defensive back Tae Hayes, who spent time on both the practice squad and the active roster in 2022 … The club also came to terms with rookie receiver Kayshon Boutte, the first of their four sixth-round selections … Fifth-round pick Atonio Mafi, a guard from UCLA, is the only other rookie to agree to terms so far.