Jonathan Casillas isn’t about to forget Oct. 28, 2014.
That’s the day he went from the bottom of the NFL to near the top.
“It’s a blessing to basically go from the worst to the best,” the linebacker said Friday when asked about the trade-deadline deal that sent him from the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the New England Patriots. “I’m sorry. It stinks to say something like that, but record-wise, Tampa is struggling and the tradition here is . I mean I talked to a couple guys who said the least games they won here the last 10 years is 10. They’re saying it’s almost a tradition, to win — winning is a tradition and that’s very noticeable here.”
When he heard about the deal, Casillas, who calls that news “bittersweet” because he had “called Tampa home for a year and a half,” didn’t have much time to react. He had to go and play. And for a team “that’s a contender every year, a team that has Tom Brady, a great defense.”
“The first thing I knew is that we had to play Denver that weekend, so I had to get my mind right real fast,” he said. “I got traded Tuesday and got in work Wednesday, so there wasn’t too much time to let it soak in. I had to get to work, get this playbook down as fast as possible.”
Casillas, 27, reported for work with his new team, played on special teams and was part of a fifth win in a row for the Patriots, moving them to 7-2 after a slow start.
He’s experienced big games before when he was part of the Saints’ Super Bowl-winning team in 2009.
“It was great, man,” he says of the atmosphere for the 43-21 rout of Peyton manning and the Broncos, during which Casillas made three special teams tackles. “I went to Wisconsin, which has a great home following, and they even travel well. I’m not comparing it but the tradition here is very rich.
“When you have that and your following is strong, you can see that even outside of the stadium, not just at games but walk up and down, go to the gas station, the grocery story, that’s something to be proud of, and I’m happy to be part of that.”
The Patriots’ bye came along at the right time for Casillas, who spent the down time learning the team’s systems.
“It’s like cramming for a final that you didn’t know about,” he said with a laugh. “All of a sudden you have a final in two days that you have to cram for.”
Hoping to get some linebacking time with the Patriots, Casillas hopes his role will increase this Sunday night at Indianapolis, but is ready for whatever comes.
“Hopefully they call my number a little bit more,” he said. “If not, I’ll be out there learning as much as I can.”
NOTES: Patriots coach Bill Belichick, asked about the practice trash talking between quarterback Tom Brady and cornerback Darrelle Revis, said Friday: “I think at times when it is truly a competitive situation, I think it’s great. We saw that last year, last year and a half, with (Aqib) Talib, the same kind of thing.” … Rookie DT Dominique Easley did not practice Friday and was listed as “questionable” for Sunday night’s game. LB Akeem Ayers missed practice, but for a non-injury situation.