Just 4 practices in, Ezekiel Elliott is already taking a vocal leadership role with the Patriots

Patriots

“You create those bonds off the field and that will carry over to the field.”

New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) and New England Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) at today’s New England Patriots practice.
Ezekiel Elliott has already made his presence felt during his limited practice reps in New England. Barry Chin / Globe Staff

Ezekiel Elliott has only logged a total of four practices with the Patriots, with only two of those featuring full-contact drills.

But that limited experience in Bill O’Brien’s system hasn’t necessitated the need for the Patriots coaching staff to ease Elliott into first-team reps and critical snaps during practice.

And even though he might be a newcomer on a Patriots roster that has practiced as a collective unit for close to a month now, it hasn’t taken very long for the former All-Pro back to establish himself in Foxborough.

“I think he’s .. a competitor,” Matthew Judon said of Elliott’s immediate impact during joint practices against Green Bay last week. “He came in and he saw live bullets flying [against the Packers] and that competitive nature came out. And so whoever was in his colors, whoever was wearing his jersey, that’s who he was standing behind.

“That’s who he was rooting for. So I think him taking on that role and actually talking and actually being vocal. He’s mature in the game of football and NFL and he’s comfortable with any locker room he’s put into, even though this is his second locker room.”

Judon is far from the first Patriots player to give credence to Elliott’s vocal presence on the field, with Mac Jones noting during his interview with WEEI on Monday that New England’s new running back “seems like a great leader” just a few practices in. 

For Elliott, taking a leadership role early stands as a necessary step, not only to ingratiate himself to an already established locker room but to help further foster camaraderie ahead of a grueling regular-season slate.

“I think it’s definitely important to take care of your business out here on the field,” Elliott told reporters on Wednesday. “But I think a big part of being a part of a winning program is just camaraderie and getting to know your teammates. I think that’s definitely important to me, for me to get to know the guys in the locker room, because you create those bonds off the field and that will carry over to the field.”

Of course, the Patriots didn’t dole out a contract for Elliott just for him to be a vocal leader.

With New England in desperate need of a capable backup option behind Rhamondre Stevenson on the depth chart, Bill Belichick and his coaching staff have already handed Elliott plenty of reps with Jones and New England’s top offensive unit during practice.

“The process has been great,” Elliott said of joining the Patriots. “I was kind of at home for a long time, so I got a lot of energy. I think I missed the first, what, 17 practices of camp? So I thought I definitely should come in and be kind of a little energizer boost. But the transition has been good. I’ve been getting along with the team. Love the coaches, love this atmosphere, love this program and just having fun.”

A bruising short-yard runner and still effective pass-catching option at the running-back position, Elliott reeled in two catches from Jones on Tuesday before being used in multiple red-zone snaps on Wednesday.

“I think when you look at my play style and the culture of this team, I think it’s a good match,” Elliott said. “I think I’m a good fit.”

Even though Elliott scored 12 touchdowns in 15 games during his final season with the Cowboys, the 2022 campaign was viewed as a bit of a “down” year for the 28-year-old running back, with 876 rushing yards and 17 total receptions both standing as career-lows.

But even after getting cut by Dallas earlier this winter, Elliott isn’t viewing this upcoming season as one centered around proving doubters wrong or other motivations beyond helping his new team out on the field.

“I don’t think any outside entity could put more pressure on me than the expectation I have for myself,” Elliott said. “It’s not really to go out there and prove anything to anyone, but just go out there and show what type of player I am.”


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