For the previous five seasons, wide receiver Danny Amendola has been an important piece of the New England Patriots’ offensive arsenal and played a key role in the team winning its last two Super Bowl championships. This offseason, however, he left New England for greener pastures: the ones offered by the Miami Dolphins, who signed the unrestricted free agent to a two-year, $12.0 million contract.
On Sunday, Amendola will return to his old stomping grounds for the first time since last year’s AFC Championship Game – one of his marquee performances in a Patriots uniform. Him being back in New England has naturally taken a central spot in the media coverage leading up to the game, even more so than the comeback of fellow former Patriot Brandon Bolden. However, it is business as usual for Amendola.
“This won’t be really much different,” the veteran told reporters earlier this week when asked about the emotional aspect of facing his former teammates. “I’m familiar with a lot of people in the organization – and I’m excited to get up there,” continued Amendola who has fit in well with his new team: praised for his experience and leadership, the 32-year old has caught 11 passes for 100 yards through his team’s first three games.
His success in Miami is a continuation of his final season in New England, capped by one of the best playoff performances in franchise history. And while the environment has changed, Amendola knows that his past helped shape the present: “Some of the things I learned [in New England] I’ll carry with me forever. What I’ve learned most is how to prepare for a game, what goes into the weekly routine leading into a game and sticking with that mold.”
“I’m just using my preparation skills against them now,” he added. The Patriots, of course, know first-hand how those skills look like and what Amendola will bring to the table on Sunday because of them. “He’s going to be competitive, he’s going to be blocking, running – so we know how ‘Dola is,” said Patriots defensive captain Devin McCourty about his ex-teammate after showering him with praise.
“[I] obviously shared great memories with him, one of the toughest guys I’ve ever been around in this league, definitely pound-for-pound,” said McCourty. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who played alongside Amendola during the wideout’s entire five-year tenure in New England, echoed those thoughts: “He’s quick, he’s feisty,” the NFL’s best tight end said about him before adding: “Definitely miss that guy.”
Through the first three weeks of the season, it felt as if all of New England did: missing a player of his caliber – a thorough route runner that can get open quickly – the Patriots’ wide receivers struggled, which had a trickle-down effect on the entire passing game and the way opponents opted to defend it. But sentimentalities will not help New England get out of its current slump against Amendola and the Dolphins. Just as they will not help Amendola find success against his former team.