Preparing for an opponent, and doing all the grunt work in the lead up for an actual game, will drive and inspire many NFL players this week, considering how the start of the season was in jeopardy because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But starting Thursday night, and continuing Sunday, NFL games will be played Week 1, and so many players are grateful to be able to do what they love.
For Patriots center David Andrews, the motivation is more personal. Just being able to play at all Sunday is a victory for him.
Last season, the Patriots offensive captain was a spectator the entire season. He wasn’t on the sidelines for a simple injury. This wasn’t a knee problem, ankle issue, or a broken hand. Blood clots in the lungs fall more in the category of a potentially life-threatening condition.
Andrews lived with uncertainty most of the year, not knowing if the condition would abate, and allow him to resume his life, and continue to work at a job he dearly loved. But the good news finally came. He was cleared by doctors during the offseason, the most important hurdle in the process.
So Sunday’s season opener against the Dolphins holds a little more meaning for the Patriots center.
Speaking with reporters on a video conference call Wednesday, Andrews was asked what he was feeling on the precipice of his first game back, after missing the entire 2019 season.
“Man, gratitude is probably the first one. And there’s a lot of excitement,” Andrews said. “You miss the feeling. I don’t know how to describe it. I just get chills thinking about it. This game means a lot to me. To be able to go compete, there was also a lot of unknowns in 2020 just with everything else that’s going on so to now be here, just super grateful to have the opportunity and I’m excited.
“You get to go play football,” he added. “How fortunate are we that we get to go do that? I’m pretty excited.”
And, his teammates are just as excited to have him back. Andrews, as the center, has a crucial role in terms of the functioning of the offensive line. Between his leadership, ability, and intelligence, he’s hard to replace.
Running back Rex Burkhead put Andrews’ return in perspective when talking with the media recently.
“It’s huge,” Burkhead said. “David, he’s an unbelievable player, not only just a player but a captain for this team, a leader for this team, and just what else he brings. He’s a master communicator up front to get everyone in the right position, moving on the same page. And he does it every single day with consistency. He’s a great guy to follow for those young guys in that room to really go to if they have any questions.”
Andrews figures to play a key role in the success of Cam Newton going forward, leading the offense. Andrews’ knowledge will be a godsend for Newton, who has had a crash course learning the offense.
Andrews reports the two are getting along just fine in terms of their quarterback-center relationship.
“It’s always a learning curve and getting on the same page. There’s ways I operate and there’s ways he’s operated,” said Andrews. “We meshed those and formed how we’re going to operate together. It’s been awesome working with Cam. Cam obviously in his career had a great center in Carolina and he’s played a lot of football games. It’s been awesome to get a chance to be able to work with him and just get to know him and how he sees the game. I’m excited.”
Andrews’ return to health, and being able to rejoin the team in an active role at center, was one of the biggest concerns this offseason. During the training camp phase, Andrews looked like he hadn’t missed a beat.
Upon his being awarded this year’s Ron Burton Community Service Award, Patriots owner Robert Kraft summed up Andrews, and his importance, fairly succinctly: “David embodies everything the Patriots organization is about: determination, dedication and a team-first attitude, on and off the field.”
Andrews could have opted out on the 2020 season given his past medical issue, but wanted to play. He was determined to play. And now, he’s more than ready to go, and his teammates couldn’t be happier.
“That’s our guy,” said line-mate Shaq Mason. “It’s always great having him back in the lineup and back able to contribute to our O-line.”