MINNEAPOLIS – Am I the only one old enough to remember, “There are eight million stories in the Naked City and this has been one of them?”
It seems like there are eight million stories of the “Patriot Way” and like Rodney Harrison, Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Dion Lewis, Alan Branch, LeGarrette Blount, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and dozens of others – players of questionable traits and abilities who the Patriots made great, or great players who appeared to be at the end of their careers – Kyle Van Noy is now one of them.
A few years ago, the Patriots had easily the best linebacker room in the NFL with Jerrod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins. But unable to keep Mayo healthy, unwilling to deal with Spikes' attitude and knowing he’d be unable to meet Collins salary demands when free agency came, Belichick moved on from all but Hightower. And just prior to the 2016 trade deadline, he made an innocuous deal with the Lions, sending a sixth-round pick to Detroit for a seventh-round pick and Van Noy.
A third-year player out of BYU the Lions had used the 40th pick in the 2014 Draft on, Van Noy had bust written all over him having managed just 35 total tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss over 30 games in 2 ½ seasons, but the Pats saw something else and were willing to develop him – the Patriot Way.
When Hightower missed Week 2 and Week 3 this year and then went down for the season in Week 7, Van Noy became the focal point of the Pats' front seven, finishing the year with 73 tackles, 5 ½ sacks and four tackles for loss.
Belichick was asked Tuesday in Minneapolis what he relies on in acquiring players like Welker, Lewis, Hogan, Amendola and Van Noy. What does he see when there is no NFL tape to indicate they are capable of what they’ve done for the Pats?
“What we try to do is bring players on the team that we feel like will be able to contribute and help us win.
“If they fall into that category, sometimes you know more on some guys than others, but the bottom line is if a player can help our team and we feel like he can fit into our scheme, system and be a contributor, then certainly we’ll take a look at them.”
Asked how he suddenly arrived when Hightower went down Van Noy said, “That’s a good question. It was everything, I mean every time you have to replace or step in for somebody like Hightower, he’s a big presence not only in the locker room but on the field and his communication, his IQ level is super high. And you know for me, it was I just wanted to try and be the best me and communicate at a high level.”
Does he feel vindicated now with all the attention the Super Bowl is putting on his arrival?
“I wouldn’t say attention because I don’t want attention, but I put myself in that underrated category and I like it that way.
“I feel like our whole defense is underrated. You know everyone talks about our offense, but I feel like you could name every player on our defense and say they’re underrated, or you know, not talked about.”
Like so many who’ve come before him, Van Noy is now a disciple of that Patriot Way.
“So I know its hard for some people to realize that it’s not perfect," he said. "You know we try our best, and we’ve done a good job of putting everything aside and focusing on each other and focusing on our individual play and playing at a high level on defense as well as offensively and special teams.
“I felt like we’ve picked up across the board in all those categories.”
Ask Van Noy if the road he’s traveled has put a chip on his shoulder and he’ll tell you, “It is what it is. I mean we know where we’re at, we’re hear at the Super Bowl and we just want to win.”
The Patriot Way.