Wednesday, November 9, 2011
'House Party' eyes return role
By Chris Forsberg
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Despite being cut by the Patriots as part of final roster trimdowns, wide receiver/returnman Tiquan Underwood thought he left a solid impression in limited time with the team and kept a constant eye on the squad from afar over the past nine weeks while working out on his own in Arizona, hoping he might get a call to return.
"Online, obviously, NFL.com -- following the press conferences, postgame and everything," the 24-year-old Underwood said when asked how he kept up with the team. "You try to follow every team because you never know what's going to happen in this league."
Underwood might have noticed that the Patriots have been rather atrocious in kickoff returns this season, ranking 30th overall in the league at a mere 20.8 yards per return. Patriots coach Bill Belichick even noted during conference calls Tuesday that the unit as a whole "is not producing to the level that we would like it to be at."
Chris Forsberg/ESPN BostonTiquan Underwood talks to reporters at his locker Wednesday at Gillette Stadium.
Enter Underwood, who returned kicks for much of his sophomore season with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010. Underwood, a seventh-round draft pick (253rd overall) of the Jaguars in 2009, returned 24 kicks for 561 yards (23.4 yards per return) with a long of 53 last season.
"Whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it," said Underwood. "Special teams, offense -- I’m just here to work, do my job and do it to the best of my ability."
Underwood joined the Patriots late in the preseason and appeared in the team's final exhibition game against the Giants, catching four passes for 52 yards. He didn't return kicks that day, but said he did work with the returners during camp.
It's safe to say Underwood made an impression, and not just because of the retro high-top fade he sports.
"It’s something different, I like it," he said with a smile. "I get noticed a lot because of it. A lot of guys call me Kid 'n Play or House Party. It’s cool."
A product of Rutgers, Underwood counts Devin McCourty (and his twin brother, Jason) as one of his best friends. The Patriots' second-year corner echoed the same advice he had given to Underwood when he first joined the team in the preseason.
"He told me, 'Come in here ready to compete, you have a good opportunity in front of me, come ready to work and do your job and you should be fine,'" said Underwood. "That’s the approach I’m going to take."