Lance Kendricks has seen a lot since entering the league as a second-round draft pick in 2011. He started his career with a Rams team that moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles ahead of the 2016 season, and subsequently from head coach Jeff Fisher to Sean McVay. He caught passes — 25 to be exact — from a future Hall of Fame quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. He has appeared in a combined 125 NFL games up to this point.
Despite his past success and vast experience, however, 2019’s free agency was a slow one for the veteran: it took until late July for him to find a new home. But find one he did, when the New England Patriots called to add him to their new-look tight end depth chart. “New England was pretty much the only team that reached out,” Kendricks said after Saturday’s training camp practice. “For me, it was an easy decision: play football or retire or whatever.”
The decision to join the Patriots did not just give the 31-year-old a chance to prolong his pro football career, it also reunited him with his former offensive coordinator: when he joined the NFL eight year ago, Josh McDaniels was an assistant coach on Steve Spagnuolo’s Rams staff. The tight end and the coach worked together for only two seasons, though, before McDaniels left St. Louis to return to the Patriots.
“He still yells at you if you do the wrong thing, so he hasn’t changed much,” Kendricks said about the 43-year-old, who has won three Super Bowls since re-joining New England ahead of the 2012 season. “But the offense is a little bit different from what I remember. It’s very complex. There’s a lot of different things that go into it. So, I’m really just trying to study and make sure I know what I’m doing when I get out there.”
Despite a different offense than the one he learned with the Rams, Kendricks acknowledged that his familiarity with McDaniels’ schemes and how he likes to run his offense does help him get acclimated to his new environment: “It helps a little bit. I kind of know where his mind is at with plays. I kind of understand the dynamic of it, so that helps in that regard. I’m just learning. I’ve literally been here for three days now, so it’s all new to me in a sense.”
One thing Kendricks did already learn is that the Patriots organization as a whole is somewhat different from the others in the NFL — that is what being by far the most successful club of the salary cap era does for you. “This is a special place, obviously,” Kendricks said about the franchise. “This is a championship team. They know how to play football. They know how to win games. They know how to do it the right way, so it’s a no-brainer.”
“They’re obviously a championship team for a reason. On and off the field, the Patriots handle their business the right way,” he added before pointing out a key factor why: “I think Coach Bill [Belichick] just sets the tone right away. Before we come out to practice he tells you what it is and what it should be and we come out here and we do it that way, and if it’s not that way we’ve got to come out and fix it and we can’t make a mistake more than once.”
From the sounds of it, Kendricks has already bought into the so-called ‘Patriot Way.’ Now, all he needs to do is prove his value as a receiver and blocker in order to earn what appears to be a maximum of two open spots on the tight end depth chart. Will it be easy? Obviously not. But Kendricks’ experience should at least help him quickly adapt to his new surroundings and position himself well in the competition for roster spots.