FOXBOROUGH — Nobody else on the Patriots roster spends as much time on the job as Joe Cardona. Probably nobody else in the NFL, either.
That’s because Cardona is holding down two jobs simultaneously. The one he’s known for is very public, since he’s the rookie long snapper for the undefeated Patriots. Cardona’s other job isn’t common knowledge: A recent graduate of the Naval Academy, he works at the Naval Preparatory Academy in Newport, R.I.
Between all of his football commitments with the Patriots — Cardona said he attends all practices and football meetings, and obviously all the games — he makes the drive to Newport, on average, four days a week. On Veterans Day, in front of a large gathering of media, Cardona spoke about the challenges that come with attempting to juggle two careers.
“It’s just showing up and doing your job every single day,” he said. “I think the preparation that the Naval Academy has given me has prepared me really well to take on the responsibilities on both ends.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose father was a longtime football coach at Navy, understands the unique circumstances that surround Cardona.
“He’s here when he can be here, and when he’s not here, we know where he is,” Belichick said. “I think he’s done a good job of managing his time and working as hard as he can on the things he needs to improve on.
“It’s a big jump from what he did last year to what he’s doing this year and the precision, the execution, and the timing and so forth. If he continues to work hard and continues to work on the things that he needs to work on, I think he’s got a real good future.”
Cardona wears his Navy whites after road games, and is almost always seen wearing Navy shirts and sweatpants in the locker room. He takes his Naval responsibilities seriously; it’s a big part of who Cardona is. Bigger than football?
“I think it’s given me a good perspective on what’s really important in life,” he said. “I appreciate our nation’s service members so much, especially being able to take pride in counting myself among them.
“Ultimately, that’s the uniform I put on first. When I get the opportunity to go out on the field and play, I take that as a blessing.”
With the Patriots halfway through their 16-game campaign, midseason report cards and award stories are being written, with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski, and others all getting high marks, as well as the team sitting No. 1 in most power index rankings.
Coach Belichick, your thoughts?
“Look, I mean that’s great, but honestly, I don’t think anybody’s really focused on that right now,” Belichick said. “We’re focused on the Giants, not some midseason report cards.
“Like, who cares? What difference does it make? Give me an F. Give me a C+. I mean, it doesn’t matter. Right now, I’m focused on the Giants. That’s all I really care about.”
Belichick was then asked what grade he would give Brady, who has completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 2,709 yards, with 22 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.
“I don’t give grades,” he said. “I’m worried about the Giants. I don’t really care about some midseason, midterm grade. Give me whatever you want. I don’t care.”
Giants of the game
Belichick, who spent 12 seasons with the Giants and helped them win two Super Bowls, noted the loss of two franchise icons when he spoke with members of the New York-area media on Wednesday. Team co-owner Ann Mara died Feb. 1 (the day the Patriots beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX) and Hall of Famer Frank Gifford died Aug. 9.
“One of the first things that I noticed was the patch on the jersey and the No. 16 [helmet decal],” Belichick said. “I know that Ann Mara and Frank have meant so much to the great tradition of the New York Giants, and I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know and work with in varying degrees both people.
“The recognition of Ann and Frank to me just really touches the great tradition that the Giants have, have always had, and how important those two people were and the part that they played in that. That’s a part of this season for them and certainly for me, as well.”
Linebacker Jamie Collins and offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer did not participate in Wednesday’s practice, which was a walk-through inside the field house. Collins missed Sunday’s game because of an illness, while Vollmer left the game in the second quarter after suffering a concussion. Two other offensive linemen, Marcus Cannon (toe) and Tre’ Jackson (knee), also did not practice, while Shaq Mason (knee) was limited, along with defensive backs Justin Coleman (hand) and Duron Harmon (knee), receivers Julian Edelman (knee) and Keshawn Martin (hamstring), and defensive end Jabaal Sheard (ankle) . . . One month into fan voting for the Pro Bowl, Brady is the leading vote-getter, with Gronkowski fifth overall, behind Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton, and Falcons running back Devanta Freeman. Voting continues through Dec. 15 . . . Ex-Patriot Garin Veris was named director of athletics at Mass. Maritime. Veris, the AD at UMass-Boston, will join Mass. Maritime Nov. 30.