Patriots

Duron Harmon: Jamie Collins' 2016 trade was 'eye-opening experience'

Duron Harmon: Jamie Collins' 2016 trade was 'eye-opening experience'

FOXBORO – In Bill Belichick’s first decade with the Patriots, jaw-dropping personnel decisions – additions and subtractions both – became routine.

I’m talking about those from-the-rafters moves like shipping out Lawyer Milloy or Richard Seymour or bringing aboard Corey Dillon or Randy Moss.

But this decade it was a little quieter. Until Halloween of 2016. That’s when Jamie Collins was traded to the Cleveland Browns. Duron Harmon said Thursday the move was an NFL epiphany for him.

“He was a Pro Bowler and a second-team All-Pro the year before,” Harmon said after one of the Patriots' OTA workouts. "Any time that happens you’re shocked because it’s your friend. I think that was probably one of the first real eye-opening experiences where I realized this is a business. We came in together, we’re great friends and he’s here one moment and the next moment he’s all the way in Cleveland."

The Collins trade illustrated how time in a Patriots uniform can be fleeting. But what happened post-trade was the real lesson. Individually, Patriots players could hate the deal down to a man. But as a team, they pocketed the indignation and went about proving Belichick right even if they thought he was wrong. They improved.

Now Collins is back and Harmon – a close friend – is happy for that.

“Me and Jamie came in together (in the 2013 draft class),” said Harmon.  “We’re friends. When he went to Cleveland we stayed in contact and we kept talking. The relationship didn’t break. We all know, he’s a tremendous football player. Athletic ability through the roof and he’s just about to come in here, do what he do and earn his spot wherever it is. Play hard and help us try to win football games.”

Even if the trade to Cleveland felt like an exile, Collins did get the payday he hoped for: a four-year, $50 million deal that he realized $27 million of. As Harmon tells it, there is no hesitancy on Collins' part about coming back.

“He’s excited to be back, so that’s always good when the excitement is there,” he said. “I’m really just looking forward to seeing him out there again, seeing him with us, building that chemistry and doing everything we can to make sure we got the best defense come the first game.”

With Collins in the mix, the Patriots are better now than they were on Tuesday. Everybody's a little bit older. But they're also a little bit wiser.

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Chris Long offers insight into greatness of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick

Chris Long offers insight into greatness of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick

Chris Long is in a unique position to share what makes Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots stand out from the pack.

The veteran defensive end, who announced his retirement over the weekend, played 11 NFL seasons for three teams under six different head coaches. He saw the Patriots at their finest, winning a Super Bowl during his lone season in New England in 2016.

In an interview with NBC Sports' Peter King, Long confirmed his experience with the Patriots was unlike any other thanks in part to Belichick's coaching genius.

In my career playing football, nobody asked me to do as much as Bill Belichick did. I might be 3-technique, or a linebacker, or a linebacker dropping into coverage more than ever, or playing inside more than ever. I’ll always remember how much I learned watching Bill in practice. He can coach any position as good as any position coach in league. He can walk around the field and stop drills and coach each position—at the highest level.

Long indeed was a versatile asset for Belichick, appearing in all 16 games while starting seven on a Patriots defense that allowed the fewest points per game (15.6) in the NFL.

The 34-year-old also got a front-row seat to watch Brady at work. But Long told King the legendary quarterback hardly carried himself like one in the Patriots' locker room.

Tom Brady blew me away. Who’s the most famous athlete of our generation: Tom Brady? LeBron? Messi? Ronaldo? Serena Williams? Maybe I haven’t been around enough to know how the biggest stars really act. But Brady is a normal guy. When I got there, here comes Tom. ‘Hey Chris, I’m Tom, nice to meet you.’ Well, yeah, I know you’re Tom. A lot of people want to hate him for all the success, and I understand how you can dislike the Patriots, but I cannot understand how you can dislike Tom.

Long's experience with Brady matches that of several NFL veterans whose opinions of the 41-year-old QB changed when they became teammates.

Brady may have helped extend Long's career, too: Long told King he might have "retired a bitter man" had the Patriots not staged a historic comeback to win Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons.

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Julian Edelman shares unique tribute to retired ex-Patriot Chris Long

Julian Edelman shares unique tribute to retired ex-Patriot Chris Long

Chris Long made a lasting impact during his one season with the New England Patriots.

Just ask Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who showed Long some serious love Sunday on Instagram after the veteran defensive end announced his NFL retirement.

That's Long wearing an eerily accurate mask of Edelman's face back in 2016. In addition to being a locker room favorite and active participant in off-field charity work, Long appeared in all 16 games for New England that season to help the Patriots win a Super Bowl.

The 34-year-old appreciated Edelman's shout-out, thanking the Patriots wideout in the comment section.

"Love u bubs. We gotta find the mask. Much respect to you. Teammates for a year but champs forever. Appreciate the kind words greatly. 🙏🏻✊🏻"

Long joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017 and earned another Super Bowl victory at the Patriots' expense, but it appears Edelman doesn't hold that against him.

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