Hoomanawanui looking to make a name for himself with Patriots

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Hoomanawanui looking to make a name for himself with Patriots

FOXBORO -- He was asked to say it twice, just so everyone heard it correctly.

"Oh-oh-mah-NAH-wah-NEW-ee," said the newest Patriots tight end, pronouncing his last name. "Did you get that?"

One day after being signed to New England's 53-man active roster, Michael Hoomanawanui was still making the rounds at Gillette Stadium. On Thursday he introduced himself to media and staff he hadn't yet met, sounding out his Polynesian surname as he went.

A newcomer to most, Hoomanawanui is a familiar face to some inside the Patriots locker room. On Sunday he was released by the St. Louis, where he played under Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and alongside former Rams Greg Salas, Daniel Fells and Brandon Lloyd.

Though Hoomanawanui was a bit taken aback by the number of reporters crowding around his locker, joking it was "a little different" scene from what he was used to in St. Louis, on the field, the changes aren't quite as jarring. He says his familiarity with McDaniels' system has made his transition to New England a smooth one.

"It helps tremendously coming in here and being thrown in the fire right away," said Hoomanawanui, who said he's already seen "a lot" that's familiar between the two teams.

"It definitely helps knowing McDaniels, knowing the offense from last year. Different terminology, but in the end it's all pretty much the same."

Hoomanawanui said he was used in several different capacities while with the Rams, which should benefit him as he acclimates himself to an offense that emphasizes the versatility of its tight ends.

At 6-foot-3, 263 pounds, physically Hoomanawanui is somewhere between Rob Gronkowski (6-6, 265) and Aaron Hernandez (6-1, 245). His skill set may allow him to be a suitable backup for both.

He's expecting to be a blocker and a receiver when called upon -- in his career he's made 20 catches for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns. He said he's also comfortable coming out of the backfield if need be.

"Being able to get in the pass game, but at the same time, hold the point of the block," Hoomanawanui said. "At the same time, a lot of motioning, putting guys in a lot of different positions to make plays. There's a lot on our shoulders, but we have a good group of guys."

The Patriots got a look at Hoomanawanui as a fullback when they played the Rams during the 2010 preseason. It was something new for the fifth-round pick out of the University of Illinois, but he enjoyed it.

"I wouldn't necessarily call myself a fullback, but when I first got into the league, here against the Patriots in the preseason, we started doing a lot of motioning, putting us in the backfield so we can have a threat in the flat and running routes from the backfield so it's been a fun learning experience," he said.

"I kind of joke around, it's kind of fun being a fullback you get a running start to hit somebody . . . But I've embraced it, and like I said, anything I can do to help the team, that's what I'm about. If i gotta block 100 plays, if I gotta run routes 100 plays, I'm all for it."

After one day, Hoomanawanui already sounds like a Patriot. And after just one day, he said he already got a taste of what it's like to hang around with the characters in Patriots tight end meetings.

"I remember Rob and Aaron obviously from the 2010 combine," Hoomanawanui said. "It's a very . . . ah . . . I don't know what the word is, but it's an interesting room. In a good way. It's all business, but there's times to let loose. After that, get right back on page. Coach does a good job with everyone's personality and it's fun the day I've been here."

Part of the fun for Hoomanawanui will be getting his new teammates to pronounce his last name correctly. And for those who can't get it, he says he goes by the nicknames "Hoo-man" and "Uh-oh."

"I'm used to it," he said with a smile. "Just as long as you don't make the last name derogatory. It's a tough last name, it's not Smith or Johnson. I realize that and take it in stride. Try to have fun with guys . . . I'll work with guys and hopefully we'll be saying it enough that everyone will know."

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

LeGarrette Blount knows where he wants to be for 2017. Ever since he re-joined the Patriots in 2014 following a short stay in Pittsburgh, the 250-pound back has been very open about how he wants to play out the rest of his career in New England. 

Those feelings haven't changed, even as he faces free-agency after having recorded the best season of his seven-year career.

"I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind, knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England," he told NFL Total Access on Monday. "I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I've become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is.

"We'll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I'm in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to."

Blount finished 2016 with career-highs in attempts (299) yards (1,161) and touchowns (18). His ability to help the Patriots close games in the fourth quarter was notable throughout the course of the season, and he was among the most effective goal-line backs in the league. His 18 rushing scores are a franchise record.

Toward the end of the season, as Dion Lewis worked his way back into the Patriots offense, Blount had his workload cut into, and his fumble in the Super Bowl was a near-catastrophic moment -- his devastated reaction to which was caught expertly by NFL Films. But a big-picture view of Blount's year would reveal that he  posted the most prodictive "big back" season the Patriots have had in more than a decade.

Blount signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason after seeing his 2015 prematurely ended by way of a hip injury. He turned 30 in December.

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Jimmy Garoppolo can't help but hear trade rumors that involve his name. He heard all about them during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Now his mom's keeping him up to date. 

"My mom loves telling me the news updates," Garoppolo told ESPN's Adam Schefter, "so she’s all over that stuff, but it’s been working really well . . . 

"I’m telling you, she could be your assistant. She’s all over the place. Her and my dad on Twitter and stuff like that. I don’t even think they know how to tweet, but they always have something going on . . .

"They know what to hit me with and what to keep quiet. They know me so well that they know what I’d like to hear and what I don’t need to hear. There’s a couple slip-ups here and there, I’m not going to lie to you, but they’re just so excited about it. It’s an exciting time, and they’re loving it."

Garoppolo tried his best to deflect questions about his future as he prepared for Super Bowl LI, but he could only insulate himself so much from those conversations. After six quarters of well-played football, he's chummed the waters for quarterback-starved franchises. As the draft nears, offers are expected to hit the Gillette Stadium offices, and it will be up to Bill Belichick and his staff to determine whether they should part ways with Tom Brady's backup. 

Schefter asked Garoppolo about one team in particular that could be interested: the Chicago Bears. Their general manager Ryan Pace is an Eastern Illinois alum, like Garoppolo, and Garoppolo is a Chicago-area kid. 

"I get asked about [that possibility] all the time from my friends and family back in Chicago," Garoppolo said. "They’re good reporters, my family. But I keep telling them I really don’t know how it would feel until . . . if it was to happen, I wouldn’t know how I’d feel until it did, you know? So it’s kind of one of those things, it’s hard to say right now."

Garoppolo added: "For the most part I am just trying to stay level-headed, trying not to think about it, over think it too much because at the end of the day I am still under contract. It is not my decision if I get traded or if I don’t, so I am just trying to take it all in stride. At the end of the day, you just have to enjoy it. The NFL, it is a hard place to be, hard place to succeed and when you get an opportunity you have to go and take advantage of it."

The idea of getting an opportunity, though, is an enticing one. Before the 2016 season, Garoppolo was very open about how he looked forward to his opportunity to start with Brady suspended for the first four weeks of the season. And with Schefter, he acknowledged that there are times when it's hard not to be impatient when you're the guy behind the guy.

"There’s times," Garoppolo said. "Obviously the kickoff happens and you are ready to roll. The juices get flowing again. You get the adrenaline, the butterflies. It’s football, you have to love the atmosphere . . . 

"We all play the game. We all want to be out there on the field and get an opportunity to play. I guess we will cross that bridge when we get there is probably the best way to put it. We’re competitors at the end of the day. We want to be out there, I want to be out there competing and playing with my teammates.”