In an offseason where the Patriots have signed or resigned 26 players and added seven rookies through the draft, the team is still in the market for more acquisitions. The latest player they are rumored to be interested in is Sammy Morris. Morris, a 12-year veteran and former Patriot (‘07-’10), appeared in only three games for the Dallas Cowboys last season after the Pats released the running back during training camp.
The Boston Herald quoted the 35-year old Morris stating, “It’s definitely reciprocal. I’m still here. My family is here. My kids still go to school here, so it’s definitely reciprocal. I’ve been around awhile, so I kind of just know the deal. Words are one thing, but all I can do is take care of my part. If something materializes, then I know I’ll be ready.”
Morris would go on to say that the team told him to “just be ready”.
And if brought back, it would be very interesting in two specific ways.
Since 2010 and the trade with the Seattle Seahawks to reacquire wide receiver Deion Branch, there has been a bit of a revival taking place within the New England Patriots organization. Ending their string of signing high profile, and “controversial”, players (ie Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Albert Haynesworth) and forcing them to adapt to the “Patriot Way”, the organization went back to its roots of signing the dedicated veteran.
In 2011 the team brought in the likes of Brian Waters, Andre Carter, Mark Anderson, James Ihedigbo, and Antwaun Molden. Instead of coercing players into the “Patriot Way”, New England sought out players who played hard for each other and dedicated themselves to the team. The results were immediate: Waters and Carter were voted to the Pro Bowl, Anderson and Carter led the team with 10 sacks each, Molden got the first two starts of his career as did Ihedigbo who went from a practice squad cast off to a 12 game starter.
Continuing the revival, the Patriots have brought back such veterans as Jabar Gaffney (with the Pats from ‘06-’08) and Donte’ Stallworth (2007). As well as players like Brandon Lloyd (‘09-’11) and Spencer Larsen (‘09-’10) who have played for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who’s on a revival of his own with a second stint as the Pats offensive coordinator, when he was the Denver Broncos head coach for two seasons.
The second way in which Morris’ return would be interesting is the manner in which Morris would be used within the Patriots offensive system.
Though he experienced his best statistical year with the Patriots in 2008, when he had 727 yards and seven touchdowns, he began his career more as a fullback than a running back. A role he found himself in more in his final two seasons with the Patriots in ‘09 and ‘10.
Because of his role as a fullback and the Patriots moving to a seemingly all aerial offensive system, Morris’ playing time diminished. In his last season in New England, Morris had his second lowest yards per carry average and fourth lowest number of carries in his career. In fact, Morris had more carries in three games with Dallas last season (28) then he did in 16 games with New England in 2010 (20).
Yet it is another revival that would lead Morris to come back to this role. After not having a fullback on the roster all season, the Patriots signed veteran Lousaka Polite on December 27th just before their regular season finale in Week 17. Polite, would appear in the final game of the season and all of the Patriots postseason games. The importance of having a ground game and a blocker to lead the way for the running back proved to be an an important elementto the New England Patriots, which led them to go out and sign two fullbacks this free agency period — Tony Fiammetta from Dallas and Larsen.
With two fullbacks already added to the roster it would seem unlikely that Morris would be brought back. Similarly, veteran Kevin Faulk’s days in New England may finally be over, after the team added four new running backs over the last two years. Yet there is something to be said for experience particularly at the blocking back position. All that Morris can do is to just be ready.
By Nathan Rickard