Patriot Maven Notebook: Good News on Gilmore? Judon Fitting In and More

Trading Stephon Gilmore would be bad business, Matt Judon is being…Matt Judon, and the Patriots are not requiring fan vaccination for Sunday’s season-opener.
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The New England Patriots will open the regular season on Sunday, September 12 at 4:25pm against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. However, the Pats continue to make news, leading up to Sunday’s showdown with the Dolphins. 

From some potentially encouraging news on Stephon Gilmore to the vaccination status of Sunday’s attendees, here are the latest Pats news and notes, courtesy of the Patriot Maven Notebook:

Gilly Off the Block?

Patriots star cornerback Stephon Gilmore is still recovering from offseason surgery to repair a torn quad. The 2019 defensive player of the year is currently on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. While he is expected to rejoin the team when healthy, Gilmore has also been the subject of much speculation when it comes to his contract. Set to make just over $7 million in salary in 2021, the 30-year-old is reportedly seeking a contract extension from New England. This has led to some conjecture, from fans and media alike, that Gilmore’s absence is more related to finances than fitness.

In an attempt to lend some useful insight on Gilmore’s current state of affairs as it relates to the Patriots, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport joined WEEI’s Gresh and Keefe on Thursday afternoon. Here’s what he had to say:

“So, here’s my understanding of where it stands: Stephon Gilmore would not have been able to play Week 1…regardless of what list he was on," he said. "For a better kind of gauge of where he was going to be, I was told, Week 3 maybe, Week 4, probably. Let’s say nothing was going on, and he had no other issues…there would’ve been a chance he would’ve started the season on the [53-man roster], gone on IR and would’ve come back Week 4. That obviously did not happen.”

While some still believe that Gilmore and the Patriots are headed for an acrimonious split (perhaps via trade this season), Rapoport sees that as an unlikely scenario.

“I’d say it’s possible, but there is just not a big window to do it. If you look at the calendar, he’ll be back (two weeks) before the trade deadline [November 2.] So, theoretically, somebody would have to say, ‘I trust enough in what I’ve seen in one game or two games to trade for him.’”

Rapoport concluded by saying: “I would never rule anything out with the Patriots, but they’d have to have a really good replacement for him to do that mid-season and not have it derail everything.”

Judon Feeling At Home in Foxboro

When the Patriots inked linebacker Matt Judon to a four-year, $56 million deal ($32 million guaranteed) in the offseason, expectations for the team’s linebackers immediately skyrocketed. The former Baltimore Raven has both the versatility and adaptability to become the team’s number one player on the edge. Throughout the preseason, Judon has looked to be everything as advertised, and more. He has been quite adept at keeping runs from reaching the corner on early downs, as well as providing speed and strength when rushing the quarterback; two areas in which the Patriots struggled last year. He has also helped to create favorable matchups from off-the-ball snaps, as well.

In addition to his on-field contributions, Judon is making an impression on his teammates, as well. His unique style and swagger has caught the eye of fellow linebackers Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Josh Uche. Still, Judon’s intention is not to impress. He is simply being himself. When speaking to the media on Thursday, Judon expressed his feelings why his acclimation to New England has been so smooth.

“I think it’s not me, it’s them,” he said. “You hear that, and it’s kind of a BS statement, right? But I really haven’t changed anything I’ve done since I’ve been in the league. I come in, play music, talk trash. I’m loud, and I believe they all just accept it. Like, all right, this is who this guy is, and this is how he’s been since he’s been in the league. And they kind of asked LG [Lawrence Guy], because LG was (in Baltimore) when I was younger, and Carl Davis (also a former Raven.] They were like, ‘Has he changed since he got money?’ And it’s always, ‘No.’"

Vaccination Not Required for Fans Attending Sunday’s Season-Opener

The Patriots have announced that vaccinations will not be required for fans’ stadium entry on Sunday, as the team hosts the Miami Dolphins for the 2021 season opener. However, all ticket holders must agree that neither they nor their guests will attend an event if they have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days, been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days, or experienced symptoms of COVID-19 within 48 hours prior to the event. Unvaccinated fans are asked to wear a mask to Gillette Stadium for Sunday’s game.

Patriot Maven Fun Fact: Patriots vs. Dolphins

The Patriots will open and close the season with Miami, marking the sixth time in team history that the team will open and close the season against the same opponent. It also happened in 2003 and 2013 against Buffalo, 1974 and 1987 against Miami and 1981 against the Baltimore Colts.