FOXBORO -- When Terrance Knighton finished running hills with his teammates after last Thursday's OTA practice, he hung back and did a few more minutes of extra work with Patriots strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera. Despite the mid-afternoon heat, despite having just completed a two-hour voluntary workout, Knighton wanted to empty the tank before Memorial Day Weekend.
Throughout his career, Knighton, listed at 354 pounds, has been vigilant about his physical condition. Now in his eighth season out of Temple, the defensive tackle knows he has to continue to be cognizant of his size -- and not simply because he has weight requirements written into his one-year deal with the Patriots.
"It'll be ongoing for the rest of my life," Knighton explained. "It's always a challenge, especially when you get older in your career, it's harder to lose it. But I've been putting in the extra work, and [I] just make sure I attack it everyday whether I'm in the building or not in the building."
Soon after Knighton signed with the Patriots, during a conference call, he was very open with reporters about the fact that he had lost weight since playing for the Redskins during the 2015 season. With help from Cabrera as well as team nutritionist Ted Harper, Knighton indicated that he was confident he'd be able to tackle whatever conditioning goals were laid out in front of him by his new team.
"That’s something that obviously it’s been a tag on me my whole career, about my weight," Knighton said at the time, "but it’s something that I’ve paid a lot of attention to this offseason. It won’t be a problem."
After his first week of OTAs with the Patriots, Knighton explained that his focus this spring and summer would not be limited to the physical aspect of his game. He knows there are mental hurdles he'll have to clear when playing in coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia's system, but he's had help in that regard.
Knighton said that he's leaned on second-year defensive tackle Malcom Brown in some ways since Brown saw significant playing time in the defense last season.
Knighton has also relied on former Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork in order to acclimate as quickly as possible. Wilfork, who spent time with Knighton during Aqib Talib's wedding this offseason, has been a player that Knighton has admired for years -- and one Knighton knows he can count on for good advice when it comes to playing in New England.
"I still keep in contact with him," Knighton said. "I talked to him prior to signing here when I went to Talib's wedding. We talk a lot. Obviously [he's] a guy I look up to. I watch a lot of his tape. I still watch it now. I'm always asking the guys around him, you know, 'What was he like? How did he work out? How did he do things?' Just trying to be the best player I can and hopefully live up to somebody like that."
Knighton added: "I'm not gonna try to be a savior or anything. I'm just gonna come in and do what I do best, be stout in the middle, get good push in the middle, just do my job and do what I'm asked."
To this point, whether it has been extra work running hills or scrolling through his iPad, Knighton seems open to doing all he's asked and more. He knows that's the path to carving himself the role that he wants in this Patriots defense.
"There's a lot going on," said Knighton, who spent the previous seven years of his career in Washington, Denver and Jacksonville. "Playing in a lot of different systems, every time you come to a new team, you gotta put the extra work in to catch up with guys, especially if you plan on being a starter in this league. You gotta catch up to the guys that are established. Right now I'm just putting in as much work as I can conditioning-wise and in the playbook, and I want to make sure I'm doing the right things."