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Free-agent-to-be David Andrews is grateful for the 2020 season, his time with the Patriots

Related: Bill Belichick on Patriots-Jets: ‘It was good to end a disappointing season on a positive note’

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ list of soon-to-be free agents is a prominent one, and also features one of the team’s leaders and most experienced players: center David Andrews is set to hit the open market in mid-March, meaning there is at least a theoretical chance that he will leave New England after six highly successful years.

Andrews’ season-ending conference call with the New England media on Monday might therefore have also been his final one as a Patriot. While him eventually leaving would classify as a major surprise, the session itself still was reflective in tone — and emotional when he was asked about how much appreciation for the sport he had found considering all that he recently went through.

“A lot. Yeah,” a contemplative Andrews said. “I love this game.”

While 2020 was a challenging year for New England as well as the league and country as a whole, it was also a success for Andrews on a more personal level. After all, he was back on the field again after being forced to sit out the entire previous season due to the discovery of blood clots in his lungs. Once more, the 28-year-old was able to serve as a cornerstone for the Patriots’ foundation.

He therefore used one word quite a bit during his final media session: gratefulness.

“It was such an emotional year as a team, some things we went through. Just... What a wild year,” he said. “I think we do have a good football team, and we did some things well and there were some bright spots to the season. And then, at the end of the day, we just didn’t execute good enough, weren’t consistent good enough. But, I’m grateful for this year and grateful to be on this team.”

Andrews first arrived in New England as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2015, and earned the starting center job by beating out incumbent Bryan Stork in a training camp competition one year later. Since then, he has appeared in 72 regular season games and 11 additional playoff contests, winning two Super Bowls along the way.

He also had to deal with his fair shares of injuries, though, most notably the blood clots that knocked him out of 2019. He was back with the team this year, but also missed three games because of a broken thumb as well as the season finale with a calf issue.

Despite those downs, however, Andrews spoke positively about his 2020 season.

“Football-wise, 2020 wasn’t what we all wanted it to be,” he said. “But I’m very grateful to get back out there and I had a lot of fun playing this year.”

What the future holds for him remains to be seen, however. Andrews, who signed a three-year contract extension with the Patriots after just his second year in the league, has never been a free agent and is about to embark on a new journey. He did say that he would like to come back to New England but also acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the situation.

“If you’d said six years ago, ‘Think you’d be sitting here’ or something? I’d probably be like, ‘Nah.’ Probably, maybe I had a little shot at the league and then sell insurance or be a high school football coach and teach school. Who knows? It’s crazy to be in this position now,” Andrews said.

“I’ve seen a lot of people be in the position that I’m in now. I’ve been fortunate to play this game and not really see the business side of it, personally, just been able to go out there and play. That’s why you start playing the game in kindergarten. Was able to get to do that for a while, and now I’m in the middle of the business side of it — and I’m not a business person. It is what it is, but that’s just part of this business. We’ll see.”

Andrews is one of 23 Patriots head for unrestricted free agency alongside other core players of years past such as Joe Thuney, James White and Lawrence Guy. So even if he returns, there is a chance the team could look a lot different in 2021 than it did the last few seasons.

“We’ve done a lot here. Done a lot of special things with some special guys,” said Andrews when talking about his emotions heading into the unknown. “Just fortunate, and just grateful.”