Jamie Collins on returning to Patriots: ‘I’m just trying to pick up where I left off’
FOXBOROUGH — Jamie Collins made the trek up the back stairs to the Patriots practice fields flanked by some familiar faces Thursday morning.
Wearing a very un-linebacker-like No. 8 over a red hoodie, Collins took some gentle ribbing from teammates he recently got reacquainted with as a barrage of cameras clicked away.
“Owwww, Jamie Collins is back,’’ Devin McCourty said, half shouting and half laughing. “Owwww, Jamie Collins is wearing No. 8. He must still be negotiating!”
McCourty likely was referring to Collins’s attempt to get one of his old numbers back; Collins wore No. 91 during his first stint in New England and No. 51 as a Brown. Currently, Deatrich Wise owns No. 91 while Ja’Whaun Bentley wears No. 51.
“I guess I wore it in college,’’ Collins said after New England’s OTA practice wrapped up. “I don’t know, 91 is taken. It’s just a number. We’ll sort it out.’’
Collins said he was “glad to be back” and summed up the workout as “another day on the job. Just come here and do what I do and that’s play football to the best of my ability.’’
Collins’s return is one of the surprise stories of this offseason. He was released by the Browns after two-plus seasons in Cleveland, where he signed a four-year, $50 million deal in 2017.
“I was surprised [to hear from the Patriots], but then again, I wasn’t,’’ he said. “Because like I said, I’m just a free agent, so obviously a lot of teams are going to contact you or whatever. That’s just the business of the game.
“I’m always surprised no matter what. Like I’m surprised right now, being in this position.’’
Collins’s first run with the Patriots ended on Halloween in 2016 when he was shipped to Cleveland for a third-round draft pick. The move caught most by surprise and came amid reports that Collins was freelancing on defense and had become too focused on his contract status. He was in the final season of his rookie deal at the time.
“It happened; I don’t live in the past,’’ Collins said. “I keep pushing. I do my thing and keep going.’’
Collins declined to say whether there was any validity to the negative reports that surfaced just before he was traded.
“It was just a change in destination, man,’’ he said. “I’m a professional and I’ve got to be professional about the business. Business is business. You can’t get upset and do this and do that.
“I’m just trying to pick up where I left off and move on. Take it to the next space, no matter where it’s at. I’ve got a long ways to go, there’s always room for improvement, so I’m just out here grinding every day.’’
A supremely athletic player with excellent quickness, Collins’s return to New England would seem to be a perfect fit for both sides, given his familiarity with the system and the region.
“I mean, I started here,’’ said Collins. “I had the opportunity to come out and start my career here. Obviously, yes, that played a big factor.”
Two of Collins’s running mates are still with the Patriots, as he’ll again team up on the field with Dont’a Hightower (“That’s my big bro”) and his position coach will be Jerod Mayo (“It’s even more fun with that guy being our coach”).
Collins said his family also is excited to be back and that their input was another big factor in his decision.
“It’s not just about me,” he said. “I got a family. I got a wife and kids. I’ve always got to think about them as well.’’
There were lots of rumors that the Patriots were trying to acquire Collins at last season’s trade deadline.
“That’s out of my control,’’ he said, when asked if he thought that was a possibility. “I hear stuff, but I’ve got to go about my business.’’