One of Bill Belichick’s rules for his New England Patriots players is to “speak for yourself.”
Former GM and Belichick confidant Michael Lombardi and former Patriots tackle Nate Solder both told me that last fall for a story on Belichick’s “Patriot Way.”
“Their four things when you walk in are do your job, be attentive, put the team first, and speak for yourself,” Lombardi said. “Speak for yourself means you don’t speak about other guys’ business, and no one answers for you. You answer for yourself [to media].”
Solder nodded: “Be prepared. Speak for yourself. And don’t fuel the noise.”
Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon, then, and listen to new Giant Authentic Nate Ebner Jersey describe his longtime Patriots special teams coach, Joe Judge, and the culture he’ll bring to the Giants:
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“I’m going to let Joe speak for himself on what his message and culture and all that stuff that he wants to do,” Ebner, 31, said in his introductory conference call, in New York on a one-year deal. “I can tell you this, whatever that will be, not only from Joe but the rest of that coaching staff, I’m going to do the best that I can to do it to the best of my ability. Whatever capacity they need me in, whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do it, and I’m going to do it the best I can.
“That, to me, is what I kind of watched in New England some great players do,” he added. “That’s kind of a mindset that as a team, if we can all buy in together, then we’ll be in there playing for each other. That’s what great teams do, is play for each other. At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s asked of me and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”
The ‘Patriot Way’ will surely be reflected in the Giants locker room with head coach Joe Judge and now Nate Ebner.
The ‘Patriot Way’ will surely be reflected in the Giants locker room with head coach Joe Judge and now Nate Ebner.(Elise Amendola/AP)
Speak for yourself? Check. Do your job? Check. Put the team first? Check. Be attentive? Check. Don’t fuel the noise? Check.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that Ebner still sounded like a Patriot in his first interview as a Giant. Obviously, that’s part of the reason he’s here.
Judge brought Ebner with him primarily due to his on-field reliability as a core and exclusive special teamer. But Ebner also came into the NFL in 2012, Judge’s first season on the Patriots’ special teams staff.
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So their eight years together makes Ebner as qualified as anyone to be one of Judge’s conduits to the new Giants locker room. And Ebner made clear he has a high opinion of Judge.
“Joe works extremely hard,” Ebner said. “He is an extremely hard worker, he pays attention to the details. He really pays attention to the details. He comes to work with a lot of energy and he did that consistently over the eight years that I’ve known him. I think that is a genuine part of him. I think he is going to bring that same energy and hopefully that same attention to detail and work ethic.
“At the end of the day, he cares a lot about his guys,” Ebner continued. “I can’t say that about a lot of coaches. I think that’s special, and I think that’s hopefully going to want to make a lot of players play for him.”
Personally, Ebner is unique in facing the repercussions of the current COVID-19 pandemic on the sports world from both a player’s and owner’s perspective.
He and former Patriots teammate Patrick Chung are part owners of the New England Free Jacks, an expansion Major League Rugby franchise that just had its inaugural season cancelled.
“It’s unfortunate for the guys and the fans,” Ebner, a former U.S. Olympian in rugby, said. “Especially this being the first year for the Free Jacks. I feel bad for the fan base and the people that have been waiting to see them go out there and play. I feel bad for everyone in the country. Everyone has a situation that they are having to deal with.”
Ebner said his primary job, however, is as an NFL football player. And with the Giants, clearly, it will be to bring elements of Judge’s way, of the “Patriots’ Way,” to his new club.