Terrance Knighton has made a career off of his unique combination of size and athleticism. There simply aren't many human beings on the planet who can take on multiple similarly-massive blockers, hold firm, then disengage and chase after whatever waterbug happens to be carrying the football.
But last season, when Knighton was listed at 354 pounds, his size may have ballooned to the point that it got in the way of his performance.
On a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Knighton said that he has lost weight since 2015 when he was with the Redskins. And he plans on keeping it off. It will make him a better player, he explained, and he'll have incentives in his contract that will serve as additional motivation.
"Last year I was obviously heavier than I am right now," Knighton said. "I'm in a lot better shape than I was last year. Contractually, I'll have weights that I need to hit. Whatever the coaches want me to play at, that's what I'll be. I've worked really hard this offseason, and I'll continue to work hard throughout the offseason program and get acclimated to the new strength coaches and the nutritionist and the way things are done in Foxborough. I'm looking forward to it."
Knighton came into the league when he was drafted by the Jaguars in the third round as a 321-pound defensive tackle out of Temple. Though he wouldn't disclose his target, that could be closer to the playing weight he and the Patriots have in mind for the role he'll be playing.
When Vince Wilfork played with the Patriots -- a player Knighton admired as a Patriots fan growing up in Connecticut -- he insisted he played at 325 pounds. He's still listed at that weight on the Texans roster. Sealver Siliga was also listed at 325 pounds during his Patriots career, and remains listed at that weight now as a member of the Seahawks.
"Obviously it's been a tag on me my whole career, my weight," Knighton said. "But that's something that I have paid a lot of attention to this offseason, and it won't be a problem."
Knighton was open last season about how he suffered from cluster headaches that impacted everything from his play on the field (he missed last year's Redskins-Patriots game because of headaches) to his sleeping habits. Those may have contributed to his conditioning issue, but when probed further about his fitness, he gave no excuses.
"It's something you have to pay attention to," he said. "I have a lot of football left and I don't want anything to hinder from that. I put last season behind me. I'm happy about being in New England, working with a great strength coach and nutritionist, I had a long talk with him on my visit. I'm looking forward to putting the plan together that they have for me and executing it and, you know, having a new start and refreshing my career."
For a look how the Patriots treat nutrition as an organization, as well as some of the duties taken on by team nutritionist Ted Harper, check our story from last year.