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Longtime assistant Johnson leaving Patriots' staff

The SportsXchange

Longtime New England Patriots assistant coach Pepper Johnson announced Tuesday he is leaving the organization.

Johnson has been on the staff of Bill Belichick since 2000 for the head coach's entire tenure in New England.

In a written statement to ESPN, Johnson praised Belichick, who also coached Johnson during his playing days with the New York Giants.

"Today marks a new day for me," Johnson said. "Today is a new day full of promise and hope. It is also a day to reflect, as I embark upon a new journey. Today is the first day in 13 years that I am not a part of the New England Patriots, although I will always be a Patriot in my heart.

"Today also marks the first day in 26 years that I am not working in some capacity with one of greatest head coaches of all time, as well as my friend, Bill Belichick.

"Football is my life. From putting my body on the line, my hand in the dirt, to teaching others to do the same, this will continue for me ... I have big dreams and goals and they all involve football. So as I soak in this new day and embark on wherever my new path takes me, I shall embrace this new chapter in my life."

Johnson was the Patriots' assistant linebackers coach in 2000, inside linebackers coach from 2001 to 2003, defensive line coach from 2004 to 2011 and linebackers coach the past two seasons.

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