While the New England Patriots will have to watch Super Bowl 50 from at home, two players formerly associated with the franchise have the chance to win their first championship on Sunday: cornerback Aqib Talib and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
Talib joined the Patriots in 2012, when the team traded a fourth round draft pick for the then-26-year old and a seventh round selection. Prior to joining New England, Talib was a talented yet oft-injured player with off-field issues.
According to Talib, this changed in Foxboro and he became a more professional athlete there (via Jeff Howe):
It did a ton for my career. First and foremost, it helped me be a professional. I got there and kind of got to see how Bill Belichick runs his organization, see how the leader in their team in Tom Brady handles himself. I came there, [on a scale of] 1-10, about a 6 ½ as far as my professional level, and I feel like I left there an 8. I got a plus-2 when I left there, so it definitely helped.
While Talib spent one-and-a-half seasons in New England, Sanders never played a down for the club – even though he had already signed the one-year, $2.5 million sheet the Patriots offered him in 2013. However, his original team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, had the right to match within five days. They did and the exclusive rights free agent Sanders never came to Foxboro. He signed with the Denver Broncos one season later.
Yesterday, Sanders was asked about his almost-tenure with the Patriots. According to the 28-year old, it could have been a successful one (also via Jeff Howe):
It was definitely a cool opportunity. I still remember when my agent called me and said the Patriots were going to offer me an offer sheet. It was pretty cool, but it didn’t end up working out. I think if it would have worked out, I think I would have went over there, and we would have won some world championships and it would have been awesome. But God is good now, and I’m playing for this great organization in the Broncos and having an opportunity to hopefully win my first Super Bowl.
Ultimately, it all worked out for the Patriots, Talib and Sanders. The two players have a chance to win their first championship on Sunday, while New England won its fourth just last year.