Nate Solder didn’t just join a new team this year when he left the Patriots and signed with the Giants in March. He began a new relationship.
“It’s kind of like having an ex-girlfriend you were with for a long time, and now you’re with a new girlfriend,” Solder said recently after a Giants-Lions training camp practice. “You’re like, what’s different, what’s the same? There’s a new coach, too — everyone’s kind of figuring him out, we’re figuring each other out.”
Solder made a clean break from New England after seven seasons, signing a four-year, $62 million deal with the Giants. He downplayed his departure, saying the Patriots won’t have trouble replacing him.
“Oh, they’re going to be fine,” he said. “That’s an excellent program they have there. Whoever steps in is going to just smooth right along.”
But it should be an emotional reunion Thursday night when Solder sees his old mates at the Patriots-Giants preseason game at MetLife Stadium.
“Having Nate there for as long as I did, someone I could always count on, rely on, depend on, he was so consistent day to day,” Tom Brady said last week on WEEI. “You know, the Giants got a great player. He’s really flourishing, and I know he’s going to have just a great career there just like he had a great career for us.
“And I’m happy for him and his family and all the success he experiences professionally, and it couldn’t happen to a better guy. He’s just an incredible person.”
Solder has nothing but positives to say about his time in New England. The Patriots made him a first-round pick in 2011, he started 95 games over seven seasons as Brady’s blind-side protector, and he appeared in four Super Bowls, winning two.
“I was so thankful for the time there,” he said. “It was amazing. Phenomenal organization, owner, coaches, my teammates are amazing. I miss all of them.”
But it was time for a fresh start.
“We were ready for a big move, I think,” Solder said. “We had an amazing time in Boston and we’re so thankful for the time there, and we’re ready for the next chapter.”
There hasn’t been much contact between Solder and the Patriots since he left 5½ months ago. He reaches out to former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia “a little bit here and there. We’re doing our own things, and that’s OK.”
And he isn’t exactly reading a ton of articles about the Patriots.
“I’m going to read as many as I did before — which is none,” he quipped. “But I will keep up with those guys. I love those guys.”
Solder’s next chapter entails protecting Eli Manning’s blind side and shoring up a shaky Giants offensive line. His contract guarantees him $35 million over the first two seasons, and at the time of signing in March, it was the richest deal for an offensive lineman in the NFL.
Solder has heard plenty about how badly the Giants need him, but he’s trying not to worry about it or the expectations that come with his contract.
“I wasn’t there. Who cares about what happened in the past?” he said. “I can only control what I can control, and what I can control is my effort, my attitude, the way that I take care of my teammates, my performance. The rest of it is out of my hands and I don’t worry about it.”
Solder’s next chapter also includes adjusting his family life to New York/New Jersey. But he and his wife still travel to Boston Children’s Hospital so their 3-year-old son, Hudson, can see his doctors. Solder said Hudson, who was diagnosed with a form of kidney cancer when he was three months old, is “doing excellent, really good,” and he thanked the Giants for their flexibility.
“We go up there every eight weeks, even during the season,” said Solder. “They’re excellent about that.”
They also got new doctors at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Solder isn’t sure whether he will need to make trips to Boston during the season, or how it will all work.
“It hasn’t been the season yet,” he said. “We’re working it out one week at a time.”
Solder was the Patriots’ Ed Block Courage Award winner in 2016 for dealing not only with Hudson’s medical issues, but his own; Solder quietly dealt with testicular cancer in 2014.
He earned a big fan in Brady.
“He’s such an incredible man and person,” Brady said. “I think the way he handled it, everyone admired and respected him that much more. He’s already just a great human being, and then to see how he dealt and is dealing with it in his family, I couldn’t imagine dealing with it better.
“We pray for him, we think about him, we all care deeply about him and his situation.”