Collie putting injuries in the past

Collie putting injuries in the past
October 4, 2013, 3:00 pm
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FOXBORO -- Austin Collie's arrival in New England wasn't exactly heralded by a trumpet fanfare.

The Patriots, with its crop of rookie receivers, with Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola still on the mend, could undeniably be helped by a veteran. But Collie largely inspired eye rolls from the fan base. Those first two seasons with the Colts, when he caught seven and eight touchdowns, respectively, might as well have happened a decade ago.

Why? Concussions and a ruptured patellar tendon kept Collie sidelined for 22 games over the last three years. He was branded by one of the most unforgiving NFL irons: Damaged Goods.

"I'd rather not talk about the concussions or the past injuries," Collie told reporters at Gillette Friday. "All that stuff's behind me. I think I've been asked those questions a lot the past couple years and I'm ready to out all that stuff behind me and move on. I'm just ready to be here, be a part of this team, and help anyway I can."

Really, the only definitive way Collie can answer questions about his health is by producing on the field. Will the work begin this Sunday in Cincinnati?

"That's not up to me. [It's the] coach's call," he shrugged. "But my mindset is, there could be an opportunity. You never know. Always prepare like you're going to play."

The game would be his first since September 23, 2012. San Francisco brought Collie in for training camp this summer, but cut him at the end of August. He's been out of football ever since.

Collie knows he's behind the eight ball now. He didn't deny the challenge of entering a new system in-season. He said he's pouring himself into the Patriots offense and believes extra study, and extra time with Patriots coaches and quarterback Tom Brady, can get him caught up.

He's never lost faith in his talent.

"It's something I feel like I'm good at. It's a gift I've been given and I want to maximize that gift. I feel like I have a lot more left to give," Collie insisted.

"If I didn't feel that way, if I didn't feel like I have more to give, or that I'd maximized my potential already then I'd walk away. But I still feel like I have a lot more."

Proving it to the league's brass has been a struggle. Though Collie didn't stand out in San Francisco's camp, catching just four passes for 43 yards in three games, he did stay healthy. That much piqued some interest; Tennessee, who brought Collie in October 1, is just one of the teams that worked him out. But none would gamble.

Enter the Patriots.

Granted, they've not bet the house; Collie's one-year contract includes an injury waiver and so is relatively low-risk. As for the reward, well... at least one side of the deal is already feeling some reward.

"There's not many places where you go in and you can just tell winning is expected here. You've got a bunch of grown men here who know how to handle their business, they don't need anybody looking after them," Collie noted. "They're all self-motivated and I think that's a rarity to find, that every single guy on the squad is like that."

No, he didn't wax poetic about New England's call being destiny. There were no dramatic speeches about his pain paving the way to Foxboro. Collie knows he has to earn his field time. He's just saying he's ready to try.

"I don't think that deep into it," Collie said with a wag of his head. "All I want to do is play football and that's what I'm doing. I'm a happy man."