Despite having spent the first five years of his pro football career with the Baltimore Ravens, Matthew Judon was quite familiar with the New England Patriots. He squared off against them on three different occasions — registering a sack and eight combined tackles along the way — and also saw them win a pair of Super Bowls.
Familiarity aside, watching a team from afar is obviously different than being part of it. Judon found that out first-hand during the 2021 season, his first as a member of the Patriots: the team is nothing like he thought it would be.
“I thought it was going to be some stuck-up people. You know, they always win and I thought it was just like some stick-in-the-muds but it was nothing like that,” the 29-year-old said during a recent appearance on WEEI’s Merloni & Fauria.
“The locker room wasn’t anything like that, the coaches weren’t anything like that. The thinking and the mentality wasn’t anything like that. We’ve seen some old clips, we’ve seen some really old clips, but they never talked about what they used to do. It was always, ‘Look at this technique. Look at this physicality’ not, ‘Look at what we did and why we were so great.’”
Despite his presuppositions about the Patriots, Judon decided to join the team as an unrestricted free agent last March. Signing a four-year contract worth $54.5 million, the long-time Raven joined New England with a clear goal: become a cornerstone of their defense.
He was just that in 2021.
Appearing in all 18 of the Patriots’ games, Judon delivered a career year in terms of playing time and production: being on the field for 81.3 percent of defensive snaps, he registered 12.5 sacks and led New England in combined quarterback disruptions. He did tail off a bit towards the end of the season, but was still a big reason why the team finished the year among the best scoring defenses in the NFL.
Judon’s strong play also earned him recognition outside of New England, and he was voted to his third straight Pro Bowl. The good certainly outweighed the bad, despite the Patriots going one-and-done in the playoffs.
Judon therefore looks back fondly on his first season in New England.
“My first year was great. I loved it out there,” he said. “The culture was so much different from where I was. Just the football, and just my play — it was just better. Not to dig on the Ravens or anything, I just had more success in New England and I enjoyed it.”