Joe Andruzzi: Mac Jones has leadership qualities that some QBs in this league don't have

New England's Corey Dillon (28) is congratulated by Joe Andruzzi (63) after a victory over Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX

© MCT – New England’s Corey Dillon (28) is congratulated by Joe Andruzzi (63) after a victory over Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX

How do you see Tom Brady’s return game going this weekend against the Patriots? 

“Brady’s got to block it out because he’s got a game to play and everyone that knows him on the Patriots side have to do the same thing.”

“He (Brady) has been doing it since it was Foxboro Stadium then Gillette, so it’s hard to see him in another uniform but god bless him. 

“He’s still going, playing strong and he’s still a feisty competitor just like he was when he first came into the league. He comes from a great family who support him everyday.”

What have you made of Mac Jones’ first three games as a starter? 

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones 10) looks to throw against the Washington Football Team during the second half of a preseason game at Gillette Stadium

© Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

“He has a big future in Foxboro, he was my pick. He fit the Patriots mould and he has those leadership qualities that some quarterbacks in this league don’t have.”

“You have to be that leader on and off the field, control those other 10 guys on offence and reflect that on defence when you’re not in the huddle. Mac does have those qualities and you’ve seen that in the first three weeks. They’re not giving up, they’re playing every play so I think there’s going to be big upside for him here.

“I’m not usually a fan of rookie quarterbacks but he did play at a big time programme (Alabama), so he has experience with the media and all of the other fun stuff that comes with NCAA and NFL.

“If Cam (Newton) was able to nurture him and bring him along, I’m sure Bill would have decided to go for something like that because we all saw what Bledsoe did to Tom. Drew brought Tom along in 2000 and 2001, unfortunately he got hurt but he still stood by Tom by being a friend and helping him through the offence.”

Were you surprised at the way Brady was able to win the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay during his first year? 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) celebrate after beating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium.

CREDIT – Mark J. Rebilas (USA Today)

“No, not at all. His drive, determination and competitiveness was a reflection on the whole team, and it started here in New England. He can’t go out there and win the game himself but the leadership skills that he had here (New England) reflected on the team for 20 years.”

“He went to Tampa Bay last year and they jumped on board. I’m sure he has a little say in the offence down there, I hear some calls that are very similar to the ones in New England, I get some flashbacks! I’m sure he puts his two cents in whenever he can.”

Players like Cassius Marsh and Lane Johnson have accused the Patriots of having a culture that isn’t “fun”, is there any truth to this?  

“It’s a different day and age now compared to when I played. There’s a lot more rules but the culture is hard work and dedication.

“That hard work and dedication wasn’t just Brady, it was everybody. We brought our lunch with us to work.

“In 2000/20001, we were a bunch of nobodies. In comes a quarterback that nobody knew of, he barely was a starter at Michigan, when he came into the huddle we had to slow everything up in order to take a step back to move forward.

“I remember back then (2000’s) we were doing two a days. Full pads, twice a day in the first two weeks of camp. During the season, there was always a question mark on whether we’d have pads on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and Fridays was shells. Nowadays, they can only do full pads once a week, if that. 

“They’re preserving their bodies now, that’s why my body is all messed up. You see Tom still out there, they’ve made a lot of rules for quarterbacks over the years. It’s amazing to look back and think of someone like Steve Grogan who was a quarterback that wore a neck collar, he was getting clotheslined and beat up. Tom’s learned to take a hit but no ones trying to take his head off because they know they’re going to get a penalty.”

Tell us about the intensity of camps and training at New England in the early 2000s- do you have any good stories about your time there with so many big personalities around the place? 

“We had fun, we were a bunch of guys from all walks of life. Bill (Belichick) and Scott Pioli at the time were trying to build a big jigsaw puzzle and they draft a kid in the 6th round, they pick me and others up off the streets. They were trying to build a team of smart hard-nosed football players.

“My biggest memory during that era was 9/11. I have three brothers that are New York City firemen, we were very close to losing one, in Tower One, he was one of the first responders. 

The team came together and they’d always ask about me and my family. It was a tough gruelling season but at that time, coaches and players were all by my side. It (2001) was a good season plus we were able to win the Super Bowl which was the icing on the cake for me because I got a great photo of my whole family holding that trophy up on the field.”

What hopes do you have for the Patriots this season?  

“In that division, they still have a chance to make the playoffs.

“I’m sure Bill and other coaches are telling the players to ease up and take it one game at a time, stop thinking of the playoffs and situations like the Gilmore scenario. It’s up to the 53 players that are healthy and ready to go to do their job.

“You want the players to go out there and not think about the playoffs as it’s way too early, you want them thinking about that next game. For this next game, a lot of these guys did play with Tom but a lot of them didn’t either. 

“It’s a different team and a young team and they have to block it all out. Yes, Tom is coming back but once that ball is kicked off, it’s time to go to work. It’s going to be tough but I’m sure Bill is instilling this into their minds every week.”

You can count Brett Favre and Tom Brady as your former teammates- how did the two compare in terms of personality and attention to detail? And are there any other teammates that stuck with you after you retired?”

“A lot of guys I played with had that competitiveness, determination and drive.”

“Brett and Tom had many similarities. Brett was a first round pick but he had that drive and intensity, he was like a big kid out there on the field. We had a great centre in Frank Winters and he made a lot of the calls. Brett listened to him, that was his leader out there. Brett also made calls himself and took things into his own hands sometimes.”

“It took quite a few years for Tom to do that but Tom is like another offensive coordinator out there while running the offence. Tom’s another great competitor, they both have that driving force and the leadership skills on and off the field. 

“Being able to go out there week in and week out and still do it after 21 years is pretty amazing and I cheer him (Brady) on everyday. He was a great teammate and friend, still helps out my foundation with signing things we auction off to raise money for cancer patients and families.”

Your career was tragically cut short in 2007 due to cancer, which you defeated. How is your health now, and how much has your foundation raised since opening?  

“I was released by the Browns going into my 11th year, I had calls from Miami and New York. As I was going to visit them, I wasn’t feeling good, stomach was hurting so I went to the doctor. An hour later, the doctor informed me they had found a large mass in and around my colon.

“Week and a half later, I was on a plane to Boston. I found out I had a rare form of cancer called Burkitt’s Lymphoma, it’s a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s and I had to battle for my life.

“God works in funny ways, I was raising money for brain cancer research for three years, raised half a million dollars with my wife Jen, then here we are calling a doctor for my own health a year later, ironically.

“We were able to come back to Boston for some of the best care around and had a fun stay in the hospital for 50+ days. It was tough on everybody, myself, my wife and my four kids at the time. Since then I’ve had another.

“The days in the hospital, they mess with your body and mind. Most patients lose their hair, skin tone and more and I had that too. I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes.

“My wife (Jen) started the Joe Andruzzi Foundation by my bedside and when I got back on my feet we launched the foundation in May 2008. Since then, we’ve helped over 30,000 families and individuals.

“Somebody recently told me ‘I loved what you did on the field, but I love what you do now more.’ that’s great to hear from a stranger.”

Do you think offensive guard is an underappreciated position? Do you guys get enough credit? 

 “Interior Linemen were always looked over, it was always the tackles that were the big money guys when I was playing. But, in the last 15 years, interior guys seemed to be getting paid well too.

“Back in my time, the blind side tackle would always get the big money and they’d just get someone to plug the hole on the interior line.

“The guy that took my spot, Logan Mankins missed out on winning a Super Bowl but he was an every down guy, he played hurt and he was sort of like myself. Zack Martin from Dallas is another really good interior lineman.

“I’m really intrigued on watching the centres snapping the ball and then pulling out to block downfield. Ryan Jensen from Tampa, he likes to run a lot, you see his big red curly hair flowing out of his helmet and he’s snapping that ball to Tom and running 20 yards to make an extra block. It’s pretty amazing.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen (66) against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium.

© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

You played in NFL Europe in the 90s, how was that experience? Do you think a London franchise could work and would you like to see it? 

“I think a franchise in the UK can work. If you look at Seattle to New England, that’s about as far as New England to London. They should be able to get a good fan base out there.

“Since NFL Europe closed, there’s still a lot of people that love football in places like London and Germany. I played in Scotland and I loved it. It was a farm league for me.

“Overall, it was a great experience. I went from a small Division Two kid nobody to someone that made the opening day roster of the Green Bay Packers in 97. It definitely helped my stock.

“Two great things Green Bay did for me was sign me as a rookie free agent and then cut me in 2000, because Bill and Scott brought me to New England. Right away I was starting next to Bruce Armstrong, Patriots Hall of Famer and five years in New England with three Super Bowls, I can’t complain one bit.”