Pull of a guard
Great work ethic of Waters has influenced the Patriots
FOXBOROUGH - Though he was signed by the Patriots just over a week before the first regular-season game of the season, Brian Waters’s transition has been seamless.
And clearly, it’s complete. How complete?
Asked during the week about his left knee, the one he hurt last Sunday night against the Jets and the one that limited him a bit in practice this week, and it was obvious: Waters is a Patriot.
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about. I have no earthly idea what you’re talking about,’’ the offensive guard said in a high-pitched chuckle one might not expect to come from a 320-pound man. “I’m focused on this week, trying to make sure that I’m prepared. So things that happened in the past, I have no earthly idea what you’re talking about.’’
The answer couldn’t have been written better by Bill Belichick himself.
The Patriots play the Chiefs, Waters’s former team, tonight at Gillette Stadium. Of all of the veteran signings and acquisitions the Patriots made once the NFL lockout ended - and there were more than a dozen - Waters was by far the best.
Released by Kansas City after 11 seasons with the team, a stint that included five Pro Bowl nods, two All-Pro selections, and the 2009 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, Waters came to New England Sept. 4, eight days before the season opener in Miami, and more than a month after being released.
Not only was he asked to learn a new offense, he also flipped sides, moving from his customary left guard spot to the right, filling the void left by Stephen Neal’s retirement.
And he’s been superb, the Patriots’ best offensive lineman this season. The website Pro Football Focus has Waters rated as the fifth-best guard in the league, and according to its metrics, he’s the third-best pass blocker at the position.
Ask anyone within the Patriots organization about Waters and his professionalism is always at the top of the list.
“He’s really a professional, you know?’’ Tom Brady said Friday. “I’m just in the cafeteria and he’s in there with his playbook open and going through all his calls and making sure that he knows everything that he needs to do. So to come from a different offense, a different place, and to really step in and contribute the way that he has, it really speaks a lot about him and what his character is. He’s done a great job.’’
“He’s a really good guy,’’ fellow guard Logan Mankins said. “Good player, good guy to be around, great teammate. He’s a pro’s pro. He’s here for one goal, and that’s to win football games and play good football.’’
In the locker room during the week, Waters faced a slew of questions about tonight’s game, and his feelings on facing the Chiefs.
“I’m sure I’ll see some people I know [during warm-ups], and be able to say hi, but the biggest thing for me is like any other game is really getting focused and really getting myself mentally prepared for what’s about to go on,’’ Waters said. “I’ll definitely have some sort of feelings. But nothing negative; it’s a great opportunity.’’
Waters said it was a bit strange pulling on a different uniform for the first time, and while he’s glad he got the number he had during his days with the Chiefs - 54 - he knows he is just borrowing it here. When it comes to the Patriots, Waters said, he knows 54 is Tedy Bruschi.
Since he hasn’t been in the Kansas City locker room this season, and since Bill Muir, his line coach his final season there, is now the offensive coordinator, Waters said there was little inside information he could give to the Patriots.
Waters said he had no extra motivation because his time with the Chiefs ended amicably.
“There’s no revenge factor here, there’s not one of those things where there’s some kind of anger or things of that manner,’’ he said. “I have a great amount of respect for those guys and I love a lot of those guys personally, but I’m a Patriot now. I’m here to try to win football games and be a productive part of this team and that’s something I’m going to take pride in. I always try to take pride in the job I do and this will be no different.
“Honestly, it was a mutual decision between both parties and I think that both parties are happy with the way it went. I know I’m excited about where I am and how I’m playing and the guys I’m playing with, and I think they’re excited about those young offensive linemen that they have that are now really starting to grow. So I think it’s ended up well for both parties.’’
Belichick doesn’t often gush about players, but Waters is the exception.
“Brian has come in and really done an outstanding job for us,’’ he said. “We got him, it was right at the beginning of the season, he certainly had to make a big adjustment from not being here in training camp. Fortunately, I think a lot of the terminology and things like that, there was some carryover.
“He’s really worked hard, just doing everything that you would want a player to do. He’s worked hard in studying his plays and being in his notebook and watching film and asking questions. He’s very well prepared. He’s a true professional and he really worked hard at his job. He takes a lot of pride in it. He’s added a lot to our line and our entire football team and he’s earned everyone’s respect here.
“He’s really made some outstanding plays, just individual plays that you don’t see many other players at his position make. He’s a high-quality player, a high-quality individual. Very unselfish, team-oriented, really tried to do things the way that the group’s [doing them]. He’s been a great addition.’’
Waters signed a two-year contract with New England. Despite his exceptional play, he will be 35 in February, so it’s natural to wonder how much longer he’ll play. He talks about wanting to be able to walk away from the game, and says his family will play a role as well.
“If we’re able to have a successful year this year and in the offseason I decide it’s time for me to go, then it’ll be time and I’ll be OK with it,’’ he said.
So does that mean a Patriots Super Bowl win will send him off into the sunset? The chuckle comes out again.
“I’m not saying that. I never said that,’’ he said, a smile overtaking his face. “I’m not even thinking that far out. I’m really happy about the fact that I’m in an environment where it really is in the now, work on the now, and that stuff will take care of itself.’’