The New England Patriots may not have made a move at the NFL trade deadline on Tuesday, but they were among the most active teams on the trade market in the weeks and months leading up to it. One of the seven total transactions made by the organization happened in early October, and it was a big one.
New England sent star cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a sixth-round selection in the 2023 draft. This week, almost exactly a month after the trade, the two parties are set to meet again.
Needless to say, there is a lot of talk about Gilmore facing his former club. The topic was front and center during a media conference call on Wednesday.
In it, the 31-year-old shed some light on his departure from New England — starting with the handling of the quad injury he suffered last season.
“I wasn’t ready at the beginning of training camp, I’m going to be completely honest with you,” Gilmore said.
“The only thing, I just didn’t like how they handled my situation, my injury. A lot went on with that that I didn’t agree with. Now that I’m here, I’m able to do the things I have to do to get me back ready to where I need to be. I learned a lot there. I have a lot of friends there. A lot of great coaches. I just didn’t like how they handled my situation with my injury.”
Gilmore suffered a partially torn quad last December and was unable to participate in any offseason workouts before the team sent him to its physically unable to perform list ahead of training camp. He never returned off it, only being activated after the trade to Carolina.
Gilmore was asked what he thought the Patriots could have done differently. He did not offer any concrete answers, though.
“I don’t want to get into specifics,” he said. “I just didn’t agree with it. I’ve put it behind me, and [am getting] ready for this game.”
The quad injury was not the only question mark for Gilmore before his Patriots tenure came to an end. There also was uncertainty about his contract situation, with the 31-year-old set to play on a base salary of only $7 million while on the final year of his deal.
Negotiations eventually did not go anywhere, which in turn triggered the early-October trade. Gilmore acknowledged that the financial aspect also contributed to him leaving New England after four highly successful seasons.
“That’s a reason also, too. But a lot goes on into it. It’s not just one specific thing. At the end of the day, it’s a business. They treat it like a business, and we made the best decision for each other,” he said. “We had a conversation and it was better for both of us to go in opposite directions, whether it was the contract or whatever. It was better for both of us to go our opposite ways.”
The Panthers activated Gilmore off the PUP list last week, and he promptly made an impact in their win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. While he played only 17 defensive snaps and another on special teams, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year registered an interception that helped Carolina prevail with a final score of 19-13.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was asked about his outing during a press conference on Wednesday, but he did not go into too much detail.
“Well, he played about 20 plays last week,” he said. “They played him about 20 plays, and most of them were on third down passing situations, but he played throughout the game. Played some inside. Played some outside.”
As for the upcoming meeting with Gilmore and his new club, Belichick was quick to downplay any of the narratives surrounding the game.
“We talk about it every week. Each week, there are players we know, or we’ve had, or that have been here, or whatever it is. That type of situation comes up every week,” he said.
Gilmore, meanwhile, appears to be happy with his new club. Now back in the Carolinas — he was born in South Carolina and spent his college career there — his focus is not on his time in New England, but rather what lies ahead.
“I’m happy I’m back home now. Things just didn’t work out. That’s life. You have to move on, and handle your situation the best way you can,” he said. “This is in the past. We have a big game this week coming up. I’m just looking forward to that opportunity.”