FOXBORO -- When Austin Collie was released last week, he was told by the Patriots to stay close and stay ready.
"So I did," Collie said Friday.
After rookie receiver Aaron Dobson re-aggravated his foot injury against the Bills in Week 17, the Patriots rang Collie for the third time this season.
The five-year veteran receiver was originally signed by the Patriots on Oct. 3 to a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum after spending training camp with the 49ers. He was released on Nov. 5 after suffering a knee injury, but was then signed again on Dec. 5 to provide the Patriots with some depth at receiver while rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were dealing with injuries of their own.
When both Dobson and Thompkins began to make their way back to the field healthy, Collie was released again on Dec. 27.
"I think if you have an understanding of how the NFL works, it's not as difficult to handle as most outsiders think," Collie said of bouncing on and off of the roster. "It's the NFL. This type of stuff happens."
Collie did admit that it is a challenge to make a temporary home close to a team without knowing if a call is ever going to come.
"Of course it's hard," said Collie. "But like I said, you have to kind of come in with the mindset that this is the NFL and this type of stuff happens. What I can control is just show up when they call and making plays."
In seven games this season, Collie has six catches for 63 yards. In what was his most memorable contribution to the regular season, Collie caught two passes on New England's game-winning drive against the Saints just 10 days after he was originally signed.
After working diligently with receivers coach Chad O'Shea, as well as quarterback Tom Brady and the other Patriots receivers, Collie has been able to quickly pick up what the Patriots offense is doing regardless of when he has entered into the fold.
"Huge. It's huge," Collie said of the help he's received, especially from Brady. "You're gonna get that from all the great players. This place is all about winning and they want to win. If you're a guy that's gonna be in there, they want to make sure that you're on the same page so everyone's gotta help out."
After the Saints game, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels explained that Collie has a unique knack for adapting quickly.
"I think it is probably uncommon, and Austin is impressive," McDaniels said. "With the time we've had to spend with him so far, he's really working hard to learn our offense and our system, which is new to him. He is a player that adds veteran experience to our group. He knows how to play and handle himself during the course of the games. He knows how to handle himself during the week of practice, and really he's a guy that has an opportunity to carve out a good role for himself and he's got flexibility that allows us to move him. We maneuvered him a little bit, not on that two-minute drive because we were under the gun in terms of time, but if he goes in there on another play during the course of the game when we had a couple guys go down, we switched some things on the sideline and he showed poise and composure in a situation where certainly we were under a lot of pressure. That was really his first exposure to playing in a game for us. So I have a lot of respect for him, and he's done nothing but try to work his tail off to learn our offense and help us any way that he can. We look forward to future contributions from Austin."
In his limited time with the team, Collie has made a significant impression on New England's younger receivers as well.
"He definitely helped me from a watching standpoint, just to see how he prepares and stuff like that," Thompkins said. "When we're on the field, he's trying to make sure he's on top of things he needs to be on top of, and I try to make sure I'm on top of things I need to be on top of. But sometimes we'll talk and I'll hear a question that he asks and I'll be like 'Oh, you know what? You're right.' Coach might answer him, and I'll jot that note down as well. To actually see where his head is at during the game and the questions that he asks, they're definitely veteran questions. Me being a rookie, they're questions I haven't thought about. I think he does a great job with that. Seeing how he prepares has definitely helped the young guys."
Collie is now preparing for postseason play for the first time since 2009 when as a member of the Colts he helped Peyton Manning make a run to the Super Bowl before falling to the Saints.
"I'm excited," Collie said. "It's been a bit. It's fun though. The postseason's always got a different feeling and I'm looking forward to it."