Pepper Johnson leaving Patriots
- [+] EnlargeHoward Smith/USA TODAY SportsPepper Johnson was an assistant for the Patriots since Bill Belichick became the team's coach in 2000.
"Today marks a new day for me," Johnson wrote in a statement. "Today is a new day full of promise and hope. It is also a day to reflect, as I embark upon a new journey. Today is the first day in 13 years that I am not a part of the New England Patriots, although I will always be a Patriot in my heart. Today also marks the first day in 26 years that I am not working in some capacity with one of greatest head coaches of all time, as well as my friend, Bill Belichick.
"Football is my life. From putting my body on the line, my hand in the dirt, to teaching others to do the same, this will continue for me ... I have big dreams and goals and they all involve football. So as I soak in this new day and embark on wherever my new path takes me, I shall embrace this new chapter in my life."
A five-time Super Bowl champion as a player and coach, Johnson garnered respect from players as one of the lone voices on the staff who had played in the NFL.
Johnson was the team's assistant linebackers coach in 2000, inside linebackers coach from 2001 to 2003, defensive line coach from 2004 to 2011, and linebackers coach the past two seasons.
Over that time, the Patriots had four defensive coordinators -- Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Dean Pees and Matt Patricia. In 2010, when the Patriots elevated Patricia to defensive coordinator, Johnson was also viewed as a strong in-house candidate.
"Pepper Johnson will always be a part of my family," Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfolk said. "[O]ne thing about football is the bonds you make that go beyond what team you work for. In my 10 years of being a [Patriot], he has always been a constant and a hell of a coach.
"But change is also a constant in life. All good things must come to an end. I wish him nothing but the best and I know he will continue to have an impact on football. It's been an honor to be with him my entire career."
THE NFL ON ESPN.COM
Thanks to the CBA, this year's crop of free agents is positioned to hit the jackpot.
- Spending Slump
- The Patriots have spent in free agency, but they haven't spent wisely.
- Starting Strong
- Red Sox lefty Jon Lester looked like an ace in his first start of the spring.
- Strength In Numbers
- Authorities have announced major security measures for this year's Boston Marathon.
- Right Direction
- As his confidence grows, rookie Kelly Olynyk keeps getting better.
- Reasonable Doubt?
- How a conspiracy of silence and a vanished gun have complicated the case.
- Nike Men's New England Patriots Red Coaches Sideline 2013 Performance Polo Shirt
MORE NFL HEADLINES