DE Jason Vega would have been a unique case in today's NFL if not for the New England Patriots' headline-hogging acquisition of one Armond Armstead just prior. After all, it's not often Canadian Football Leaguers make an impactful jump to the NFL for one reason or another--unremarkable measurables, a lack of production at the collegiate level, a small school. The ones that have successfully made the transition, however, have done so with a bang: Warren Moon, Raghib 'Rocket" Ismail, Joe Theismann and, of course, hometown legend Doug Flutie to name a few. The Patriots turned their tri-cornered caps northward this offseason to infuse their pass rush with some much-needed youth and athleticism, and at first glance, Jason Vega certainly fits the bill.
Vega, 6'4 and 255 lbs, comes off a head-turning season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers that saw him record 40 tackles and five sacks. It doesn't hurt that Vega was reared just down the street in Brockton and attended Northeastern University, giving area scouts ample opportunities to track his abilities. A roster "lock" is anything but a certainty in Foxborough--especially this early in the season's proceedings--but if his words are any indication, Vega's doing just about everything right to seize a seldom-seen opportunity.
Vega was kind enough to speak with Pats Pulpit just before the offseason kicks into high gear.
Pats Pulpit: I saw you tweeting about that Bruins game 7 last night. I know you're from Brockton, so I know you have an allegiance to some of those teams at least to some extent. What were your thoughts?
Jason Vega: It was tough to watch for a little while. End of the second and the early third, things started to look really bad. I just kind of knew as soon as we could get one goal going we might be able to pull it off, but it was going to be a long ways and we had a lot of work to do.
PP Is it difficult to be a fan of a team or a city you're playing for? Does it skew the perspective of 'business has to be done', or does it have any effect at all?
JV: No, I don't think so. I've always maintained the perspective that it's a business with the NFL. It really wouldn't have mattered whether I was here or anywhere else, I just happened to be closer to home. It's more or less something to write about and something to talk about, but it really didn't matter all that much to me.
PP: Now that you've done a bit of training camp, what do you think the biggest difference between the CFL and the NFL is?
JV: I just think the playbook's more complex. There's a lot more at stake. Other than the playbook and the speed of the game, it's a little bit different just because you have what you would say are better athletes in the NFL and all across the board.
PP: Which do you prefer? Canadian or American bacon? We had to ask.
JV: I think the American. The Canadian was a surprise ... a pleasant surprise.
PP: Who's the lucky recipient of all your flannel now that you're back in Boston?
JV (laughs) I did not own a piece of flannel while I was up there. I refused it.
PP: Not one?
JV: Not a single one.
PP: Which Patriot do you most respect? I know it's a loaded question going into the season, but if there's one guy you could see yourself looking up to when it comes to locker room dealings?
JV: It's really tough to say because there are so many guys here that provide such good examples for what's a true professional and what it takes to win. You go anywhere from Tom Brady to Vince Wilfork to Jerod Mayo--those are guys that are here day in and day out. And regardless of what people might say or 'status' positions where they might not have to be here, but they're here. They're working hard and working on their craft. Those are three of the guys that are more admirable considering their positions on this team.
PP: We've kind of had an identity crisis on defense, whether it's going to be a 3-4 or a 4-3. And situationally, it kind of varies and is also based on the personnel. How do you get a read on how you're going to be integrated into the defense here?
JV: I'm just a football player. Whether we're running a 4-3 or a 3-4, I'll line up in that position. I'm doing the best I can to learn as much as I can, as fast I can to be able to contribute in that respect--whatever it is.
PP: Are you more comfortable in one or the other?
JV: Not really. I've played both. Whether it be in college, high school or up in Canada. I don't think I'm more comfortable in either one, I think I've grown to be just as comfortable standing up or in a three-point.
PP: Would you have to bulk up from where you are right now to be a defensive end?
JV: I don't think so. We haven't really gotten into weight preferences or anything like that. I think we're just kind of going through the offseason program and just kind of fitting in where I can here. I'd always like to gain a little more lean muscle mass, and I think that's just a product of wanting to try to get better in some way, shape or form. I think I'm right about where I need to be.
PP: Does it help to have another CFL guy on the roster in Armond Armstead?
JV: I've came out of situations that aren't exactly the friendliest of locker rooms, but I feel like the guys in this locker room are so welcoming. It's repetitive, but it's a really good locker room here. We're a group of guys that really just don't care where you came from, it's just a matter of you're here now and you're part of the family. It was nice at least initially when me and Armond were here the first couple of days, but once we got acclimated it wasn't really a big deal.
PP: Do you think you have a leg-up on the incoming rookies because you've had experience beyond the collegiate level?
JV: I don't really think so. I went to a smaller college, so I didn't necessarily play against the highest of competition like someone who might have went to Florida or USC or something like that. I think we're all pretty much even keel in terms of the amount of knowledge that we're gaining while we're here. It's just a matter of picking it up as fast as possible.
PP: Is it somber knowing that these guys could be cut at a moment's notice? Does everybody grasp this is a business, or is it still tough to see your friends gone the next day?
JV: No, it's still tough. One day everyone's here, and the next day their locker's empty. It's always difficult. That's the way it was when I was up in the CFL and that's the way it is here. I think everyone has a grasp on the fact that is a business here--as it is anywhere else--but it still doesn't make anything easier to deal with when you develop such strong relationships with guys.
PP: First thoughts on meeting Bill Belichick?
JV: That he's really straightforward and business-oriented. He's kind of no nonsense in the sense that he knows what he wants and what he likes to see out of guys. He has that expectation of everyone that comes in here. It's always business-first and team-first when you're here, and that's the way it's always going to be.
PP: You were a student adviser at Northeastern. What was your subject?
JV: I was more of the law part of things, I had a couple of those classes that I was really intrigued by. A lot of the kids that I was dealing with were in biology and a little bit more 'complex' majors.
PP: Is that backup plan for you, in case football doesn't pan out?
JV: I think that was more or less the timing for me in the sense that I finished playing at that time, and just went back to what I do and had an opportunity to work a little bit. I don't think it was something where I set out to do that or that's what my purpose is per se, but it was nice to have at the time.
PP: What do you do when you're not a football player?
JV: Well, I'd say Call of Duty keeps me occupied. When it's not that, it's my 15-month-old daughter.
PP: So, two full-time jobs right now?
JV: Yeah (laughs)
PP: As a true test of a Brocktonite, how deep is your hatred for the New York Jets?
JV: At this time, I obviously have no interest or concern for any other organization. Anything outside of the New England Patriots, I have nothing positive nor negative to say.
PP: Belichick's already wearing off on you.
JV: Yep. (laughs)