As Michael Corleone once bluntly advised his hot-tempered brother Santino (a.k.a Sonny) in Mario Puzo's masterpiece, The Godfather, "It's not personal...it's strictly business."
At one time, linebacker Matt Judon considered New England enemy territory. After all, there is no love lost between the Patriots and his former team, the Baltimore Ravens. That rivalry has sometimes blurred the lines between "business" and "personal."
Despite the somewhat icy relationship between the two franchises, Judon decided that it was in his best interest to do business with the Patriots. He inked a four-year, $56 million deal ($32 million guaranteed) to join New England.
It wasn’t personal. It was strictly business…lucrative business.
Although Judon has significant financial incentive to play at a high level for the Patriots, his primary motivation remains his desire to be the best he can be on the field. During his time in Baltimore, he was used primarily as an outside linebacker. Judon is expected to spend the majority of his snaps with the Patriots in 2021 in the same capacity. Still, Judon is playing in the house that made the phrase ‘Do Your Job’ a team rallying cry. Oftentimes, it means playing a variety of roles.
The former Raven has the versatility and adaptability to become the team’s number one player on the edge. At his best, Judon can keep runs from reaching the corner on early downs. He can also rush the quarterback in passing situations; two areas in which the Patriots struggled last year. He can also create favorable matchups from off-the-ball snaps, as well.
However, on Thursday, the veteran linebacker spent time on both the punt and punt return teams. While it might have been a slight departure from duty (having played on just 11% of Baltimore’s special teams snaps in 2020), Judon is keenly aware that expectations in New England are different. He is also ready and willing to accept that responsibility.
“When we come in, and my name is on the list, it’s because that’s what the coach asked me to do. So if I’ve gotta go play punt return, kickoff, kickoff return — if they ask me to kick a field goal, I’m going to be trash, but I’m going to try to do it. I’m going to try to do it,” Judon told reporters on Thursday. “Whatever coach needs me to do, I’m willing to do it.”
Whether it be at linebacker or special teams, Judon knows the value of showcasing his versatility. From his days at Grand Valley State, to the present day, he knows the importance of making a stellar first impression. Though it may be early, Judon is intent on showing the Patriots’ coaching staff the variety of things that he can do on a football field.
“Right now, you kinda try to do everything in camp and put it on film so you put your best foot forward,” Judon said. “Then when you cut the numbers down, it’s easier for the coach to say, ‘OK, this guy can do this. This guy can do this. And he can also do this.’ So it’s always a more-you-can-do approach for me.”
With his second training camp practice with his new team now in the books, Judon acknowledged that he is still adjusting to his new home in Foxboro.
“I’m not in enemy territory anymore,” said the soon-to-be 29-year-old. “It’s different everywhere. I just have to adjust to (Belichick’s) coaching style, which I really like,” Judon said with a smirk. “It’s different, but it is what it is. It’s going to be different everywhere.”
The setting may be different, as is the style. However, the goal remains the same. Both the Patriots and Judon want to win, and they have come together for that purpose.
Perhaps keeping their "friends" close but their "enemies" closer, might end up being good business after all.