It was about going to a place that would give him the best chance to prove he can still play football.
The 39th overall pick in the 2014 draft by Jacksonville, Lee appeared in 53 games his first four seasons, catching 171 passes for 2,166 yards and eight touchdowns. But he missed the 2018 season with a knee injury and a shoulder injury limited him to six games last year.
“After these certain injuries, you’ve got some people who get down on themselves and tend to want to shut it down. For me it’s kind of like a motivating factor,” Lee said during a conference call Wednesday. “I just kind of want to see where I am at this point. I’m eager to get out there and play football, which I feel like I haven’t played in the last couple of years.”
New England was thin at receiver last season in quarterback Tom Brady's final year with the team, and Lee is the most significant addition to that group. The Patriots also added former Arizona Cardinals receiver Damiere Byrd, but for now will lean on veterans Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu as well as second-year players N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers.
Lee said Brady's exit to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't deter him from signing with the Patriots.
“Not at all, in all honesty,” Lee said. “I just knew the last couple of years I didn’t really have the opportunity to go out there and do the things I really needed to do as a player. … What better place to try to get back to yourself other than New England? Very strict, just basically all about football and handling your business.”
While getting to know his new coaches and teammates has been challenging because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he hasn’t been completely starting from scratch.
Since signing with the Patriots, Lee has spoken to new assistant Jedd Fisch, who spent the past two seasons with the Rams. Fisch's role hasn’t officially been announced in New England, but he was offensive coordinator with the Jaguars in 2014 when Lee was a rookie.
“It gave me a little relief going to a team and not knowing anybody else,” Lee said.
Lee is just focused on making the most of his new start.
“I’m just here,” Lee said. “They need a body. I’m a healthy body. I’m just going to rock out and try to do as much as I can.”
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