The New England Patriots began their offseason workout programs this week and will be without one member of the defense who will miss the beginning of these sessions to remain in his hometown after a mass shooting last week.
Anfernee Jennings is a third-year linebacker out of Alabama, originally from Dadeville, a small town about two hours away from The University of Alabama, where he spent five years playing for the Crimson Tide.
The drive-by shooting left four people dead and 32 injured who attended a birthday party for the sister of Philstavious Dowdell, a Dadeville High senior who committed to playing college football at Jacksonville State.
Jennings, who once starred for the Dadeville High football team, elected to stay in his hometown to help rebuild and support his community in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy rather than attend the Patriots’ workout programs.
In a small town populated around 3,000 people where everyone knows everyone, Jennings is making it his mission to ensure Dadeville is in good condition before he heads to New England’s offseason programs and for the season ahead.
The Patriots drafted Jennings in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He’s played in 30 games with seven starts, totaling 47 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
The third-year linebacker is a great depth player and could eventually be the immediate replacement for aging defensive standouts Matthew Judon and Lawrence Guy, who are entering this season as 31 and 33-year-old men.
Jennings is only 25 years old and should be close to his prime years. However, the Patriots must decide on Jennings’ future with the team, as he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2024.
Alabama players have done well in New England due to the similar coaching styles of Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. Since 2000, the Patriots have drafted 13 players that Saban has coached, seven from Alabama.
It’ll be interesting to see if Jennings is, in fact, going to be in New England for the long haul.