Jamie Collins “surprised” to be back with Pats, but ready to work

Jamie Collins made it clear in his first media availability since returning to N.E. that he’s not focused on the past, and is ready to just “play football.”

Linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. has had an interesting career path thus far – especially as it relates to the Patriots.

Drafted by the team in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Collins was shockingly and unceremoniously exiled to the Cleveland Browns after just three-and-a-half seasons. Once considered to be the most physically gifted and talented player on New England’s entire defensive roster, suddenly he found himself playing for a woebegone Browns team that would end up with a 1-15 record… the very same year the Patriots would make history by overcoming a 25-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime of the Super Bowl.

A little more than two years later, Collins is back with the Patriots for a homecoming of sorts. Despite leading the Browns in tackles last season and attributing for four sacks, 13 tackles for loss, and an interception, he was cut by Cleveland on March 6.

So was Collins surprised to hear that his old head coach Bill Belichick wanted him back in Foxborough, especially after rumors and reports back in 2016 seemed to suggest that Belichick had grown tired of Collins’ inconsistent play, occasional lapses of effort, and “freelancing” on defense?

You better believe it.

“I was surprised,” Collins told reporters honestly after Thursday’s OTA session, which was made open to the media for the first time this offseason. “But then again, I wasn’t, because I’m just a free agent, so obviously a lot of teams are going to contact you or whatever. That’s just the business of the game. I’m always surprised no matter what. I’m surprised right now just being in the position.”

Collins also notably refused to take the bait when asked if he was upset about the way events unfolded between him and the Patriots back in 2016.

“It was just a change of destination, man,” he said (of going to Cleveland). “I’m a professional and just have to be professional about the business. Business is business. You can’t get upset or do this or do that. I just tried to pick up where I left and move on. Take it to the next space no matter where it’s at.”

Though Collins wasn’t necessarily bad during his brief Browns tenure, he also certainly didn’t live up to his hefty salary: four years for $50 million, over half of which was guaranteed, signed by Collins at the end of January 2017. Given the knowledge of that price tag, it’s no wonder the Browns decided to cut ties at the end of last season – especially after he missed 10 games in 2017 due to injury.

Collins isn’t dwelling on the past though; that much was readily apparent in how much he tried to steer the conversation to the present and the future, and to his new chapter with his old team.

“I don’t live in the past. I keep pushing to do my thing and keep going. I mean, I started here. I had the opportunity to come out and start my career here. Obviously, yes, (coming home) played a big factor. Like I said, whatever the opportunity is, presents itself, it’s not just me. I’ve got other people to think about. It’s a team thing. It’s another day on the job, man. Just come out here and do what I get paid to do, and that’s play football, and just do it to the best of my ability.”

If Collins can walk the walk as well as he can talk the talk, then maybe he just might be able to tap into that raw potential once again that made him such an exciting player during the early stages of his career. If he does, it’s a true win-win… for both Collins as a professional athlete, and for the organization that originally took a chance on him six years ago.