FOXBORO -- One thing you always hear from new Patriots -- rookies and veterans alike -- is awe for the team machine. Will Allen, a 33-year-old cornerback who signed with New England as a free agent, is no exception.
"It's been great," Allen said of the team's OTAs. "The kind of workouts these guys are doing, it's just impressive. It just reminds me of college and what it's about, as far as trying to get in shape to play at the level you need to play at this game. I think strength coach Harold Nash does an excellent job. He's been kicking my butt for the last week-and-a-half, so I'm excited about that."
The veteran of 11 NFL seasons spent the last five years in Miami's secondary as a mostly-corner, sometimes-nickel back. He signed a one-year, 1 million deal in New England in March.
Though the Patriots do need more men at the position and love veterans, especially former first-round picks, Allen's job isn't guaranteed. New England has worked out at least five college cornerbacks set to be rookies with this weekend's NFL draft.
That's fine with Allen.
"I think to be around for a long time, you have to embrace competition," he said. "I've been in competition since I came into this league and you have to embrace it. In my position, if you don't like competition you're not going to survive out there."
This is where the years of NFL experience help. Allen believes, if anything, the need for full-time nickel backs is growing.
"If you look at where most of the balls are thrown, a lot of the balls are thrown in there, especially where the game is turning now, where a lot of slot guys are getting lot of balls," he said. "If you take a guy like Wes Welker, Wes gets the ball a ton. And tight ends, it's easier throws for the quarterback and the fact that guys are spreading guys out and you're creating most mismatches out there."
The respect for Welker is genuine, and it extends to the rest of the Patriots offense. Allen's time in Miami taught him all too well what kind of damage New England can inflict on defenses; he laughed in obvious joy when asked about working with, instead of against it.
"I've faced Tom Brady quite a few times," Allen said. "To be a teammate of his, I'm grateful for that. I'm happy I'm here. I think, if I had to pick a team to go to, this would be the team."
Allen might have gotten his hopes up in the past. When the Dolphins released the defensive back at 2011's final cuts on September 3, he visited the Patriots in the next three days. But Miami, freed of guaranteeing Allen's contract and able to bring him back at a lower rate, re-signed him on the 14th.
Allen doesn't hide the fact he feels the visit was an opportunity lost. How could he? The Dolphins went 6-10 last season; they missed the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 years. When asked why he wanted to play for the Patriots, Allen practically scoffed.
"Why do you think? This team wins," he said. "We play this football game to win. We play this game because we love it, first and foremost, but most importantly we want to win. This place has a great reputation for winning ball games."