It was the second day of NFL free agency when Jonathan Fanene got the call.
Bill Belichick was on the other line. Exactly what was said, we dont know but it was all Fanene needed to hear to make New England his new home.
I had a chance to go and do some visits, but I didnt want to go, Fanene said. When I first got the call from Bill I was so excited I wanted to make a move and come out here.
The 6-foot-4, 292-pound 30-year old defensive end has played the last seven seasons in Cincinnati, after they drafted him in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He saw increased playing time from 2005-2009, peaking at 16 games, 10 starts, 36 combined tackles, six sacks, and a 45-yard pick-six.
2010 a contract year looked to be the season hed make the jump, but an early-season hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve. That led to a one-year deal back with the Bengals on short money for the 2011 season.
Fanene made 24 tackles including 6.5 sacks in 16 games just two starts for Cincinnati in 2011, but that was enough to catch the eye of the Patriots.
I guess they watched film on me and I guess what they need to build up the pressure or pass rush up here, Fanene said. So I guess whatever they see in me they brought me up here to help the team.
As it stands, the Patriots are out 20 sacks between Mark Anderson, who signed with the Bills, and Andre Carter, still a free agent. Its clear the Patriots zoned in on making up for some of that with recent additions of Fanene, who is a balanced run and pass defender, and rookies Chandler Jones and Donta Hightower.
The rookies will get their wake-up call in no time, but for Fanene, its already happened. He noted that there were a lot of differences between Cincinnati and New England, but elected to pick out just one.
I see guys focused more. And not just a workout, but everything that we do out here is more like a team effort. And guys really welcome me inside the locker room. Its not about all the talking and all the media and TV stuff, but its more like hard working and just do your job.
Who better than Chad Ochocinco former teammate (and, shall we say, media showboat) of Fanenes in Cincinnati to express that message?
Yeah, I talked to him a little bit last week and he just tried to put me on the game, and let me know whats going on out here, Fanene said of Ochocinco. This is not Cincinnati, this is not a regular team this is like real business now. So Im trying to get on my two feet and work.
Belichick has always valued players who can do multiple things, and Fanene fits that mold. His versatility will be big for the Patriots next season, and hes got the right attitude about that gift.
If they tell me to play nose, Ill play nose. 3-technique, 6-technique, 7-technique, outside end, special teams, Im doing it, he said.
Theres a lot of good things out here. Theres a winning franchise first of all. Its a blessing to be here and be part of the Patriots. I told myself I just want to do the best I can do out here so we can win.