Once at odds, Solder and Cannon now lean on each other

Once at odds, Solder and Cannon now lean on each other

HOUSTON -- The Patriots offensive line is as close a position group as there is in Bill Belichick's locker room. Players' stalls at Gillette Stadium are lined up, one after the next, helping to foster a bond that is on display daily. 


They wait for one another to go to meetings or to leave the facilities. They are each other's rides to and from the stadium at times. They are guests at each other's homes on holidays. They generally travel in a pack -- as they did when they showed up to the Empower Field House for an indoor practice last week -- huddled up like massive middle-schoolers, waiting for the first bell.

Two members of the line, though, haven't always been fond of one another.

The two tackles who will be expected to keep Tom Brady protected when the Patriots take on the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, are now brutally honest about it: There was a time when they didn't get along.

"There was plenty of talk," Solder said. "It was just kind of like . . . almost like your brother. You know what I mean? You almost want to punch him [because] you can't stand him sometimes."

"Our start was a little rocky at first," Cannon admitted. "Rookies coming in, not really knowing each other. But we've grown a lot since then."

Solder was a first-round pick out of Colorado in 2011, a projected starting left tackle, and an apprentice to then-starter Matt Light. Cannon, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma shortly before the NFL Draft and slipped down teams' boards, was taken in the fifth round out of Texas Christian.

Perhaps it was that they were in competition for playing time. Perhaps it was that their personalities clashed. Perhaps both. But as their rookie season wore on -- with Solder eventually claiming a role as the team's starting right tackle -- their feelings toward one another continued to trend one way.

"We were both up to be drafted the same year, and I think there was a little animosity between us when we ended up on the same team -- which quickly became heavy animosity throughout the season," Solder said.

"That initial situation," Cannon said, "might have been a little bit of maturity . . . It's kind of like having the little brother trying to get the attention of the big brother."

"But over the year, that next offseason," Solder added, "we were the two that were hanging out with each other every day."

Eventually they gained an appreciation for one another. Solder saw how Cannon worked and vice versa. They got to know each other better, as did their families.

Now call the friendship they've built "a blessing." 

They are similar in that neither man can be described as boisterous. They are the epitome of the strong, silent type. But in those moments when they need someone to talk to, they've turned to each other.

"He's somebody that I can ask for help if I need somebody to talk to about non-football stuff or anything," Cannon said. "He's a really good guy."

Solder gained an even greater appreciation for Cannon last season. After beating testicular cancer himself in 2014, Solder's young son Hudson was diagnosed with a Wilms' tumor in his kidneys in the fall of 2015.

Cannon was one of the first people to go to Solder to provide some measure support. 

"He said, you know, 'I understand the nightmare you're going through. But just know, Nate, that the nightmare does end,' " Solder explained. "He's seen both sides of that. That was a huge impact on our lives . . . I'm so thankful to have him in my life."

"We've grown together a lot," Cannon said. "We have grown spiritually and on the field. Nate's a good guy. I like going fishing at his house. He catches more fish than me, but it's all good. He's a great guy. He's a great guy to look up to, and he's a great friend."

Patriots stay busy, reportedly sign Patrick Chung to extension

Patriots stay busy, reportedly sign Patrick Chung to extension

The Patriots have been busy in the last 48 hours. They made a trade to bring in a second McCourty. They signed a defensive end, a running back and an offensive lineman. And now they're extending one of their own. 

According to NFL Media, the Patriots are signing safety Patrick Chung to a short-term contract extension. Chung was headed into the final year of his contract and was set to earn $2 million in base salary. It's the third extension Chung has signed with New England in a little more than three years. 

Chung, who turns 31 in August, is arguably Bill Belichick's most versatile defender. He is able to play a traditional strong safety role, covering tight ends and backs and playing in run support. He's also been used at the "star" spot to take on opposing slot receivers, and he'll occasionally rush the passer. He's also still a key contributor in the kicking game. 

"The guy is a really good football player," Belichick said of Chung earlier in January. "He’s one of the best players in the league, one of the best players on our team. He does a lot of things very well and has done them that way for a long time. We’re lucky we have him. He’s an outstanding player in all the things that he does. We put a lot on him, and he always comes through."

Chung's second go-round with the Patriots has breathed new life into his career. 

Drafted in the second round in 2009 - with a pick the Patriots picked up by trading Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs - Chung was used in more of a traditional deep safety role. That gig didn't exactly maximize his skill set, and in 2013 he signed with the Eagles to play under his college coach at Oregon, Chip Kelly. 

The Eagles released Chung after one season, and the Patriots re-signed him with a different role in mind. A strong tackler who wasn't afraid to mix it up at the linebacker level, Chung started to be deployed more often in the box. He readily admitted, he welcomed the change to be a little closer to the action. 

In 2015, Chung signed an extension to tack on three years to what was initially a one-year contract. In 2016, he signed another one-year extension. 

"We took the guy in the second round," Belichick said last season. "But it just - for a combination of reasons, I'd say a big part of it [being] mistakes that I personally made - it didn’t work out the way that we hoped it would. But we got it right the second time. I think we've been able to utilize him. I wish we had been able to do that when we initially got him, but it didn’t work out that way. Like I said, I think we finally got it right."


Former Patriots RB Danny Woodhead announces retirement

Former Patriots RB Danny Woodhead announces retirement

Former Patriots running back Danny Woodhead has announced his retirement after 10 years in the NFL.

The 33-year-old took to Instagram to make it official.

10 years! Wow, God had crazy plans for a small little kid from North Platte, NE! It’s been a wild ride and feel so blessed He allowed me to do what I loved for so long. But now it’s time to say goodbye to the game I love. First, I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Without Him my career wouldn’t have been possible. He blessed me with the gifts and He paved the way. All I had to do was follow His plans for my life, and His plans were crazy awesome! Next, I want to thank my wife who has been by my side since freshman year of high school. She has been a rock through all the ups and downs. Sis, Willy, Mae Mae, and Hopie your daddy is going to be home a ton more and I can’t wait! Thanks to my Dad and Mom for always supporting me and showing me that God is first, then everything else will fall into place. Ben, Joel, and Anna thanks for preparing me for the NFL in our backyard games growing up. The dreaded in-laws Steve and Suzie for always being there for me. Chris Gittings (agent) you’re the best and thankful your my brother/uncle! Thank you Jets, Patriots, Chargers, and Ravens! Thanks to all my head coaches (Bob Zohner, Brad Smith, Bill O’Boyle, Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick, Mike McCoy, and John Harbaugh) who believed in me! To my rbs coaches (coach skiles, coach reiners, Jimmy Raye, A Lynn, Ivan, Ollie, Ridge, and Thomas) thanks for putting up with me. Thanks to all my teammates from high school till now. Without you guys I never would’ve become who I was as a player. To all my olinemen, you guys deserve the credit for anything that I received credit for. I thank you for helping make my career. To all the trainers, team docs, strength coaches, chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, body gurus thanks for making sure I was on the field. To all the people who made my life easier at the facility (ops, pr, equipment staff, cafe workers, custodians) thanks and your work doesn’t go unnoticed. And how could i forget all my fans?! You’re the best and have always felt the love and support! I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few but know that I’m thankful for everything everyone has done on my journey.

A post shared by Danny Woodhead (@teamwoody39) on

Thursday, it was reported the Patriots reached out to Woodhead for a possible reunion. 

The last two seasons have been challenging for him, as he dealt with season-ending injuries in both 2016 with the Chargers and 2017 with the Ravens.

Woodhead finishes his career with 2,238 yards rushing, 2,698 yards receiving, 15 rushing touchdowns and 17 receiving touchdowns.