The culture inside the Patriots organisation has always been shrouded in an element of mystery. Until recently, there have rarely been leaks of discontent amongst players and staff, and though there's always been an understanding that the environment is very much a no nonsense one, few have ever revealed the true extent of this.
Bill Belichick demands a lot of his players, that's well known, but that doesn't come at the expense of treating them like human beings ahead of football players, according to former Patriots LT Nate Solder.
Solder joined the Giants this offseason as a free agent, but his decision was more about getting his son, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, the best medical treatment possible than his displeasure at playing in New England.
Solder wrote a long piece titled 'Thank You, New England' on The Players Tribune in which he detailed the support he was given by Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and the rest of the organisation during his son's initial battle and how they see players as more than mere footballing commodities.
“I was a kid who thought his entire purpose was to win, and then I went to New England, where winning is everything,” Solder wrote. “Only to learn that it’s not.”
He admits that it can be difficult at times, due to the serious nature of the franchise, but that when times got hard everybody stepped up and offered their support.
“It can be a tough environment. It’s very businesslike, and at times it can be cold,” he writes. “Everything in New England is predicated on performance. It’s a place where people sometimes treat you differently based on how you practiced that day or how you answered a question in a meeting. One day, you could walk around the facility feeling like a Pro Bowler — the next, like you’re about to get cut.”
“[McDaniels] told me that if I ever needed to dip out of a meeting because the stress got to be too much, nobody would ask any questions. Coach Belichick told me the same,” Solder writes. “He said that if I ever needed to miss practice or a meeting, it was totally fine. ‘Whatever Hudson needs,’ he said. I don’t think I can even put into words how much I appreciated that — both what Bill said and how Josh handled everything. They treated me like a human being instead of a football player or a left tackle.”
“My relationship with Josh really took off from there,” Solder says. “In a cutthroat business where guys are always getting released and winning is everything and it’s all football all the time, I really appreciated the fact that he took the time to say, ‘Nate, what you’re going through with Hudson … that’s more important than football.’".
Solder maintains that he has only good memories from his time with the Patriots and that his only motive for leaving was Hudson's health.
"When I was deciding where I was going to play next season, Hudson’s medical needs were a huge factor. My family needed to be somewhere where Hudson would get the best care possible, which eliminated a number of teams right away."
"In New York, Hudson will get the medical attention that he needs, and my family and I are excited to start this new chapter."
“I’m going to miss everyone in that locker room and everybody in the organization, top to bottom,” Solder writes. “Wherever God may lead me, nothing will ever be able to replace what I found in New England.”