How Patriots’ Josh Uche ignored the trade deadline noise

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Uche at deadline: A sign at the door reminds players to “ignore the noise” every time they depart Gillette Stadium. In a peek behind the curtain of what life is like for some players leading up to the NFL’s November trade deadline, Josh Uche shared how Patriots coach Bill Belichick helped him do so.

Uche, a defensive end/outside linebacker in his fourth NFL season, was discussed in trade scenarios with other teams.

“It was an interesting situation,” he told in a 1-on-1 interview this past week. “It was the first time I really had some open, transparent dialogue with Bill. He was very honest. He kept things very real with me.

“He told me they want me here. He told me teams that were interested, and things like that. We had that discussion and I was kept in the loop the whole time, knew what was going on. It was smooth. So I guess on the outside it can seem like chaotic, but I feel like Bill did a great job, at least with me, communicating what was going on.”

How did the discussion with Belichick come up?

It was buzzing around so much [in the media] that eventually it was something me and him had to talk about. Instead of, I guess, going around it, he just came up to me and we talked about it. Straight up. That’s kind of how it went,” Uche relayed.

At the time, Uche was sidelined with knee and ankle injuries. He appreciated the direct approach.

As opposed to hearing it from outside sources, I just wanted to hear it from Coach,” he said.

Uche’s appeal to other teams starts with his production as a pass-rusher. He totaled a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2022.

Meanwhile, the Patriots had just two wins at the trade deadline and, with Uche scheduled for unrestricted free agency after the season, it behooved Belichick and director of player personnel Matt Groh to gauge the market from possible suitors.

Uche understood that if the Patriots received an offer that was too good to pass up, Belichick would have acted on it.

“It’s a family — you have some of your best friends sitting next to you, your locker mates — but at the end of the day, it is also a business. So there is a reality of things, and you just have to be prepared for it and understand that things happen,” he said.

“The organization has to do things in their best interest, and it’s like ‘here is what it is going to be.’ Having that confirmation from my head coach is reassuring.”

Uche, 25, has appeared in eight games this season (two starts), playing 26% of the defensive snaps as he comes on the field in more obvious passing situations (two sacks). In 2022, he had played 33% of the snaps.

“It’s kind of been the story of my career since I’ve been here. There have been times when I’m needed more than others, game plans when I’m implemented more than others. It’s all about doing my job when I’m in there and not going outside the integrity of the scheme,” he said.

“When I am in there, I try to make sure I maximize those plays in the opportunities I do get. I would love to be out there as much as possible, but if coaches and the scheme and the game plan says otherwise, then all I can do is do my job and the controllables and give my best effort.”

When the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Uche reaches free agency after the season, it’s possible another team views him as a full-time fit in its scheme. That could dictate whether he stays in New England on a second contract.

Uche, a second-round draft choice out of Michigan (2020), said it’s hard to predict the future and that he’s channeling his attention to the second half of the season.

“I’m sure it’s something that is going to have to be discussed once the season comes to an end, I would assume. But from my conversations, the organization that drafted me and brought me in [to the NFL], they see exactly who I am and know what I am capable of, and they know who I am as a player,” he said.

“I want to be here. From my conversations with Coach, they want me here. It’s just all about making sure all the pieces fit together, and sometimes it’s out of our control, and then sometimes it just takes time.”

2. QB decision looms: After benching Mac Jones late in the fourth quarter in Week 10, Belichick has slow-played a decision on who will start at quarterback when the Patriots return from their Week 11 bye next Sunday on the road against the Giants. One player privately said it would be helpful to know which direction the team is going, allowing everyone to rally around the pick, and perhaps will come when players return for meetings Monday. The team’s first practice is set for Tuesday.

3. Grier as No. 3: Belichick seemed to hint that No. 3 quarterback Will Grier wouldn’t be considered to start, making it a Jones vs. Bailey Zappe decision. He said of Grier on the Patriots All-Access television show: “When you’re new and haven’t been here in training camp and had the full background of OTAs and a chance to run our core plays, it’s a lot to catch up on. Will has done a good job of it. There’s no issues with him. It’s just there’s only so many snaps out there.”

4. Montgomery’s role: When the Patriots claimed Jaguars running back/kickoff returner JaMycal Hasty on waivers Monday, it potentially put veteran Ty Montgomery II’s roster spot in jeopardy. Hasty’s skill set seems to duplicate Montgomery, who was not at Wednesday’s lone practice of the bye week and whose overall impact has been limited.

5. Room for McDermott: Another roster-related move coming out of the bye week will likely be the need to create a spot for Conor McDermott, who has started the past two games at left tackle and has used up his three practice-squad elevations. Uncertainty surrounding starting left tackle Trent Brown — who wasn’t at practice Wednesday and didn’t make the Week 10 trip to Germany due to a combination of injury and an undisclosed off-field situation — ties to McDermott’s status. Meanwhile, McDermott is already ahead of Vederian Lowe on the depth chart.

6. Coaches grind: Patriots coaches didn’t get much of a bye week. After Wednesday’s practice, and some cleanup work into Thursday, they essentially had Friday and Saturday off before they were due back in the office Sunday.

7. Mood check: How would Uche assess the outlook of the Patriots’ locker room on the bye week? “We’re 2-8, but if you take a closer look, it is a lot of close games, one-score games. The record doesn’t always tell the full story about who we are as a team. We have a lot of great football players on this team,” Uche said. “We just have to keep working hard to overcome and have those close games swing in our favor. It doesn’t get better by just giving up.”

8. Pats-Chiefs on MNF: The deadline for the NFL to decide on flexing the Dec. 18 Chiefs-at-Patriots game out of “Monday Night Football” is no later than Dec. 6. Regardless of how poorly the Patriots are playing, my opinion is that the prime-time appeal of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs — along with the possibility of a Taylor Swift appearance at a venue she referred to as “Foxy Foxborough” on her recent tour — will keep the game in its slot. Meanwhile, since Thursday night games require a 28-day advance window to flex, the Patriots-at-Steelers game on Dec. 7 is past the deadline.

9. Did you know? — Part I: The Patriots’ 10-6 loss to the Colts last Sunday was the lowest scoring game in the NFL this season.

10. Did you know? — Part II: Last week marked the first time the Patriots lost a game when allowing 10 or fewer points since Sept. 23, 2001, against the Jets, breaking a streak of 89 such games. That 10-3 loss was the game when Tom Brady took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe.

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