FOXBOROUGH — In a span of five days last month John Simon signed with the Patriots, learned the playbook to the best of his abilities, then played 20 snaps in a 38-7 win over the Dolphins.
It was a whirlwind, but not necessarily the toughest by Simon’s standards.
There was the time he was signed by the Texans a day before their “Thursday Night Football” game in 2014, played against the Colts, and recorded his first career sack.
“I’ve done it before, but it’s always tough learning a new playbook,” Simon said Thursday. “[The Patriots] told me what was expected of me and I tried to perform as best as I could.”
Considering Simon’s track record, his performance against the Dolphins was par for the course. He recorded a sack, just like he did in his first start for the Texans, and had five tackles.
Simon injured his shoulder last week against the Colts and was unable to finish the game after playing five defensive snaps and five more on special teams, but he said he “feels great” and is ready to contribute Sunday night against the Chiefs.
“I’m enjoying it here, guys are welcoming me in,” said the veteran defensive end. “It sucks [getting injured], but it’s football. It happens. It’s just something you’ve got to get used to. I feel great.”
Simon, 27, signed a three-year, $13.75 million contract with the Colts last season but was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury after starting nine games.
According to Simon, familiarity in a 3-4 defense, which he played with the Colts, has helped him pick things up quickly in New England. The biggest challenge has been learning the Patriots’ terminology, and for that he’s leaned on his teammates.
“I was very impressed, not many people can do that, come in and play the same week,” defensive end Adrian Clayborn said. “I was very impressed. He’s a veteran, he can rush, and he’s smart.”
In just a two-week period, Simon has moved up the depth chart quickly and earned a role in the defensive rotation. Derek Rivers and Geneo Grissom, both listed on the depth chart ahead of Simon, were inactive against the Dolphins and Colts.
What Simon has been most impressed with is the way the team has embraced him and helped him learn the scheme quickly to make an impact, which he hopes to continue doing on Sunday night.
“You don’t win that many games if you don’t have a locker room full of professionals,” Simon said. “They’re pros. The coaches do a great job and I’m looking forward to being a part of that. I think it’s just to come in, work hard, go about their business the way they’re supposed to, and execute the game plan.”
Josh Gordon had two catches for 50 yards last Thursday against the Colts, and the way that he caught the touchdown pass displayed how quickly he’s earned Tom Brady’s trust.
Gordon described it as a “sandlot” play, after Brady scrambled, waited, and chucked it to the skilled receiver.
Gordon has played 18 snaps in each of the last two games, and he’s perhaps heading for more against the Chiefs.
“Dude works hard. Great teammate. I really think he can be a really big piece of us,” said receiver Julian Edelman. “It’s exciting to be around him. He loves football, you can tell. He knows his stuff. It’s getting more and more fun the more and more he knows.”
A lot has been written and said this week about the impressive ability of young Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the stunning speed of Tyreek Hill, and how the Patriots have been attempting to mimic that in practice.
Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer has had the pleasure of impersonating Mahomes on the scout team, and other players have been in on the process.
“There’s certain guys out there that you’re going play against that we just don’t have, like we don’t have Tyreek Hill on the other side to emulate it, but you get guys to go out there,” said safety Devin McCourty. “I think it’s always a mix of practice and then film of watching it and trying to see it. But that’s the NFL. You don’t really see things the way you’ll see them Sunday a lot of times, but this week is just, I think, a little different because they have a lot of guys that are top guys in their position and create different challenges that you just don’t see on a weekly basis.”
Wide receiver Chris Hogan did not participate in Thursday’s practice. He first appeared on the injury report Wednesday with a thigh ailment and had limited participation in that workout.
Gordon (hamstring), Malcom Brown (knee), Grissom (ankle), Rob Gronkowski (ankle), Sony Michel (knee), Eric Rowe (groin), Simon (shoulder), and Danny Shelton (elbow) were all limited for the second consecutive day on Thursday.