- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Speaking to reporters at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez said the Patriots were a team he had eyed as a potential landing spot this offseason, but that he was surprised to receive interest from New England early in free agency.
"This is my first time as a free agent, I didn't know what was going to happen, I didn't know how it worked," Gonzalez said. "The phone call early was great, and somewhat surprising, but it was the one I was hoping to get, to be honest, when I evaluated free agency and different teams and how I thought I would fit culturally, and also from an offense standpoint, this was one that I had targeted. To have the interest be mutual, that worked out well."
After five seasons in Indianapolis, Gonzalez, who signed with the Patriots on March 17, will get a chance to experience the Patriots-Colts rivalry from a different perspective.
"I'm excited to be here. It's probably the best professional football environment that there is," he said. "Just being in the NFL and being on the other side of that rivalry for a while, there's not like a hatred or anything, it's more of a respect. As you learn more about the teams you are playing, especially this one, you kind of get an appreciation for how they do things, and just the way it's run, and that sort of thing. To me it was the perfect fit in a lot of ways."
Gonzalez joked that he has a "strict hall of famer-only policy," now having a chance to catch passes from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after four seasons with former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Gonzalez said he has yet to speak to Brady, but noted that he has worked closely with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer since arriving for offseason workouts early last week. Hoyer and Gonzalez were teammates at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio.
"It's very odd," Gonzalez said of the chance to play again with Hoyer. "When you leave high school, you certainly don't expect to reacquaint yourself with your high school quarterback in the [NFL]. It's nice to kind of have a familiar face, somebody that you've known a while. I've known his wife longer than him, she was my sister's best friend. So there's definitely a familiarity there that is nice and comfortable."
Gonzalez and wide receiver Matthew Slater spoke to reporters on Tuesday, while Hoyer, offensive linemen Ryan Wendell and Kyle Hix, and safety Josh Barrett were working out on the Gillette Stadium game field. The team's offseason program doesn't begin until Monday, but Gonzalez said it was important to him to get an early start.
"I just wanted to get up here. I want to get immersed as quickly as possible. It's a lot easier to get to know people when it's small groups," Gonzalez said. "I'm kind of sneaking around trying to learn as much as I can. There's kind of goofy rules right now, as to what you can and can't do.
"My focus, whether it's with Tom or Brian or with anybody, is just to learn this offense as quickly as humanly possible," Gonzalez continued. "I know just from watching that it's a pretty complex, pretty involved offense, and the one in Indy was too, so that part doesn't worry me, but I do want to make sure that when it's time to get out on the field and go through things, that there's no hesitancy mentally, because if I don't know exactly what I'm doing, there's going to be problems."
The former first-round pick in 2007 has been one of the NFL's most injury-plagued players over recent seasons, but told reporters on Tuesday that he preferred to keep his focus on his future, not his past.
"I don't go home and think to myself 'oh my gosh, I've been hurt all these times, how am I going to do whatever,'" Gonzalez said. "My focus has always been and will continue to be what am I doing today, what I am I doing tomorrow, what am I doing next week, and you just kind of deal with things as they come up."