Ten months ago, no NFL roster included more names from New England Patriots past than Chris Ballard’s.
Ballard, then in his first year as Indianapolis Colts general manager – and having already swung a pair of trades with head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio after neither organization had swung one together since 1985 – had 11 former Patriots players in the fold.
It was no small slice. At that point in the regular season, there were a total of 99 players who once made stops in Foxborough under contract elsewhere around the league between active rosters, practice squads and injured reserve. And the New York Giants were next closest to the Colts, with eight, followed by the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers, both with seven.
The tables have turned a bit since then as the Patriots and Colts get set to meet again on Thursday night. Not just because of Josh McDaniels’ February stint as Indianapolis’ head coach, but because there are currently more ex-Colts in New England than there are ex-Patriots in Indianapolis.
Another arrived this past week.
Here’s a glance at those roster connections leading up to the 8:20 p.m. ET kickoff at Gillette Stadium.
Jacoby Brissett, quarterback – The North Carolina State product by way of Florida was drafted No. 91 overall by the Patriots in 2016 and started two of his appearances for New England as a rookie, going 34-of-55 passing for 400 yards while rushing for 83 yards and a touchdown on 16 scampers. Brissett landed on IR but was reactivated on the way to Super Bowl LI. He’d be traded to Indianapolis on Sept. 2, 2017 – for a certain to-be-mentioned wideout – and started 15 of his 16 games last season for the Colts. Brissett threw for 3,098 yards and ran for 260 more, finishing with 17 total touchdowns, seven interceptions and three lost fumbles. He’s been in for one Hail Mary since the return of Andrew Luck.
Jabaal Sheard, defensive end – Signed by New England via the Cleveland Browns in March 2015, Sheard started nine of his 28 games over the course of his next two seasons with the Patriots. The former second-round pick out of Pittsburgh accrued 13 sacks, six passes defensed, four forced fumbles and a Super Bowl ring over that span before joining the Colts in the spring of 2017. Sheard has started every game for Indianapolis since then, netting 66 tackles to go with 7.5 sacks, a trio of batted passes and a pair of forced fumbles. The 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive end has been in on a sack in each of the Colts’ last three games.
Kenny Moore II, cornerback – Moore, who suffered a concussion in the Colts’ overtime loss to the Houston Texans last Sunday, originally entered the league as an undrafted Patriots rookie in May 2017. The Division-II Valdosta State Blazer had just $5,000 in guarantees from New England, but he’d ultimately be one of four players claimed off waivers from the Patriots on cutdown weekend. Moore stepped in for all 16 games for the Colts last season, notching 38 tackles, a forced fumble, five passes defensed and also an interception returned 25 yards. He played the second-most snaps on Indianapolis’ special teams and saw 323 snaps on defense over the final six weeks of 2017, starting five. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound corner has started each of the Colts’ first four games this season, registering 18 tackles and a 32-yard interception runback.
Adam Vinatieri, kicker – Tough to have brevity here. Signed by the Colts in early 2006 – a month before the Patriots drafted eventual all-time franchise scoring leader Stephen Gostkowski in the fourth round – Vinatieri is the only player in NFL history to have accounted for 1,000 points with two different clubs. The 45-year-old member of the New England’s 50th anniversary team is in his 23rd NFL season now, and has four Super Bowl rings, three Pro Bowls to go with as many first-team All-Pros, and surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Morten Anderson just last week for the most career field goals ever converted. He’s at 567.
Phillip Dorsett, wide receiver – As for that to-be-mentioned wideout from the Brissett deal, that’d be Dorsett. The 2015 Colts first-round pick out of Miami spent his first two years in Indianapolis, compiling 51 catches for 753 yards and three touchdowns. Dorsett has since caught 28 passes for 165 yards and two scores in regular-season action for New England. Both of those trips to the end zone have come in 2018 for speedster, who, in the absence of the reinstated Julian Edelman, has reeled in four more receptions through four games with the Patriots this year than he had through 15 games last year.
Dwayne Allen, tight end – Allen was acquired by Patriots in March 2017 in exchange fourth-rounder in that year’s draft, which became USC offensive lineman Zach Banner at No. 137 overall. Allen had caught 126 passes over five seasons with the Colts, for 1,443 yards and 19 touchdowns. He’s since caught 11 for 82 yards and one touchdown, while putting forth his primary contributions in blocking assignments. The 28-year-old tight end, who agreed to restructure his $4.5 million base salary and $5 million cap hit this August, has started three of New England’s first four games of 2018. Allen has played 37 percent of the snaps and garnered his initial two targets of the year from quarterback Tom Brady last weekend.
Ulrick John, offensive tackle – John, on injured reserve after suffering a foot injury in the Patriots’ preseason finale, was selected by the Colts in the seventh round of the 2014 draft. The Georgia State tackle would be waived by Indianapolis after his rookie training camp, yet began the regular season on the Colts’ practice squad before agreeing to join the Miami Dolphins’ active roster. John has also been a member of the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers. The 26-year-old signed with the Patriots in April.
Brian Schwenke, guard – Schwenke, a 2013 Tennessee Titans fourth-rounder, signed with the Colts in 2017 free agency yet was released that Labor Day weekend. He returned to Tennessee to play in all 16 games, starting two, before checking in with New England during the opening week of training camp this summer. The 6-foot-3, 318-pound Schwenke re-signed to the Patriots’ active roster three days after it was trimmed from 90 in September.
Lawrence Guy, defensive tackle – Guy had been a well-traveled guy before signing a four-year pact worth up to $20 million with the Patriots in early 2017. And from October 2012 to October 2013, the defensive tackle now residing in his fifth NFL locker room was in the Colts’. Indianapolis signed Guy off the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad in the midst of his second season, and he tallied 21 tackles and one sack over nine games with the Colts from there. Those games were the first of Guy’s NFL stay. He’d later be claimed off waivers by the then-San Diego Chargers and spent three years with the Baltimore Ravens. Guy has since started 19 of his 20 games with the Patriots, posting 77 tackles and one sack.
John Simon, defensive end – Simon signed with the Patriots last Wednesday and made his debut four days later. The 27-year-old defensive end played 20 snaps on Sunday, and managed to hit home for his 14th career sack and five tackles. A Ravens fourth-rounder out of Ohio State in 2013 who’d spend three seasons with the Texans, Simon signed a three-year, $13.5 deal with the Colts in 2017. He started all nine games he played in for Indianapolis prior to suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. The Colts released Simon as the calendar turned to September. He’ll now revisit them a month later.