Patriots Week has arrived.
Which in 2018 means it’s Danny Amendola Week.
Amendola didn’t duck the attention Wednesday — some 96 hours before the Dolphins receiver was set to face the team whom he helped win two Super Bowls.
But if you were expecting any rhetorical red meat, you don’t know anything about the guy. Amendola is as cautious with the media as he is fearless on the field.
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Here’s a taste of the back and forth in the Dolphins’ locker room Wednesday:
What’s it going to be like being on the visitors’ side Sunday?
“I’m going to be on the other side of the field. That’s it.”
Will it be strange?
“I’ve played there before, so I’ve had a lot of experience playing there. I’m excited to get back up there.”
Will it be emotional seeing your football brothers?
“Emotions? I play with a lot of emotion every game. I have a lot of friends on every team. This won’t be really much different. I’m familiar with a lot of people in the organization and I’m excited to get up there.”
How about New England’s 1-2 start to the season. Surprised?
“They have a bunch of good football players. It’s early in the season. Everybody in the whole league is trying to figure some things out, trying to get moving, including us. We’re going to get up there, give it our best shot, look at the scoreboard after the game and hopefully we come out on top.”
We’d go on, but you get the point.
Amendola must have feelings, perhaps even strong ones, about facing the team he went to war with for five years. He just was not about to share them ahead of Sunday’s hugely important showdown.
And that, perhaps more than anything, is Bill Belichick’s lasting influence on Amendola, who signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Dolphins this offseason.
The Patriots Way is to do, not say. And Amendola has followed that edict so far in Miami.
Amendola has not been the Dolphins’ leading receiver in 2018. But he has been their toughest. Amendola has 11 catches for 100 yards in the Dolphins’ first three games, and it seems like every one of them has been across the middle.
“Danny’s made some big plays for us,” Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “... He always seems to have a knack for getting open. He has a great feel for that, whether it’s on those crossing routes or underneath. We have a lot of confidence in him to get open.
“To be able to have the confidence [in his] bravery, to be able to stand in there and make those catches in tight windows, knowing that you’re going to take some punishment afterward, is huge,” Tannehill added. “Some guys can’t do it. If you look at Danny, the guy’s done it his whole career and continues to do it. It’s awesome to have. I don’t want to put him in those positions too often where he’s taking those hits, that’s on me, but it is nice to have a guy who’s willing to sacrifice and make those tight-window catches because he definitely keeps the chains moving for us.”
And while Amendola would never say it (publicly), the Patriots probably made a mistake letting him walk this offseason. The Dolphins’ offer far exceeded what the Patriots were willing to pay him, ESPN reported back in March, but New England has been lost at receiver without him through three weeks. Things are so bad that the Patriots traded for Josh Gordon, who is equally talented and troubled.
But perhaps it was time for both sides to move on. Playing for Belichick is a grind. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, a close friend, told Amendola to “be free, be happy” in a farewell Instagram post back in March.
Amendola said Wednesday that he “of course,” is OK with how his time in New England ended.
“I don’t have any regrets in my career,” he added. “I’m really happy to be here. Really happy to be with these guys, with this group, with these coaches, my teammates and this organization. It’s a great come true for me.”
Amendola added: “It takes a lot of preparation. It takes a lot of film study. It takes a lot of experience, knowing what to do, what not to do. Situational football, some of the things I learned there I’ll carry with me forever. What I’ve learned most is how to prepare for a game, what goes into the weekly routine leading into a game and sticking with that mold. I’m just using my preparation skills against them now.”