For the first four months of the offseason, the New England Patriots did not make any of their assistant coaches available to the media. That will change on Monday, with the team having set up conference calls with 12 members of its coaching staff — including new addition Joe Judge and jack-of-all-trades Matt Patricia.
One name is suspiciously absent from the schedule, however: Ivan Fears will not speak to reporters. His name not being on the itinerary could be seen as another sign that the Patriots’ long-time running backs coach will indeed soon call it a career.
New England has not yet announced his retirement, but the belief entering the offseason was that Fears would step away after 25 total seasons with the organization.
The 67-year-old originally began his time with the Patriots as their wide receivers coach. He spent the 1991 and 1992 seasons in that position, but left for the Chicago Bears after head coach Dick MacPherson was fired. He returned in 1999, coaching the receivers under Pete Carroll. He was retained by Bill Belichick in 2000 and continued working with the wideouts until moving to the running back group in 2002.
Fears has been responsible for the position group ever since, and through the years has become one of a handful of coaches to be a part of all six of New England’s Super Bowl wins. However, he already hinted at the end being near during last year’s offseason workouts.
“I’ll let my body determine that one,” Fears said at the time. “The signs are coming quickly. I ain’t no way in the world moving like I used to. Father Time is coming fast. He’s on my back pretty damn good.”
Fears not being listed on Monday’s interview schedule is no definitive proof he has stepped away or is planning to do so, but the signs are definitively pointing in that direction.
If he will not be back with the team, Vinnie Sunseri appears to be the prime candidate to take over. Sunseri joined the Patriots’ staff as a defensive assistant in 2020, but was moved to the offensive side of the ball last year to serve as Fears’ assistant.