Mingo says Patriots opportunity is 'several years in making'
FOXBOROUGH >> It's no secret that Barkevious Mingo's career never truly took off in Cleveland.
He's hoping an out of the blue opportunity with a perennial Super Bowl contender will be just the thing to restore some gloss to a career that had begun to dull after three uneven years.
The linebacker is primed for a fresh start as New England's newest addition following his trade from the Browns last week in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2017.
But he has few opportunities to prove himself in his new home, given only one preseason game left before teams must make final roster cuts.
"It's hard. These guys got couple of months on me," Mingo said. "It's a challenge but the guys here they're really helping me come along, pointing me in the right direction and just getting me ready to play."
The sixth overall pick of the 2013 draft, Mingo arrived in Cleveland with high expectations because of his intriguing size and speed combination at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds.
It never really manifested on the field, though, as he struggled to stand out and find a definitive role on a Browns defense that went through three head coaches and changes at defensive coordinator during his three seasons.
As Cleveland's coaching leadership changed, the 25-year-old moved around Cleveland's 3-4 defensive alignment. He was asked to adapt again this summer, moving from outside to inside linebacker. Now he's coming back into the Patriots' more familiar 4-3 defense, a style he played at LSU.
"It's been several years in the making," Mingo said. "I've played several positions at Cleveland and I think I'm equipped to make the transition."
New England spent a lot of time this offseason trying to shore up a defense that saw the departure of defensive end Chandler Jones in a trade with Arizona.
Veterans Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Jonathan Freeny are expected to again dominate playing time at linebacker for the Patriots this season.
Though Mingo said unequivocally "I'm a linebacker" when asked about whether the Patriots have identified a specific role for him to play, there's conceivably opportunity for him on the line if he's willing to adjust. Two pass rushers that were projected to have key roles this season — Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard —are both working their way back from injuries.
Mingo isn't totally on an island as he tries to navigate his new situation in New England. He worked out with Collins coming out of college, and played against Hightower, who went to Southeastern Conference rival Alabama.
He is also being reunited with Sheard, whom he played alongside for two years in Cleveland.
"Jabaal was there my first year and he carried me along that long, long year," Mingo said. "Being back with him is definitely a huge relief."
Coach Bill Belichick said he was unsure if digesting the playbook or adapting to the Patriots culture will be Mingo's biggest adjustment.
"He has got a lot of catching up to do," Belichick said. "We'll spend, and we already have spent a lot of time with it. He has worked hard, he has put in a lot of extra hours already in the brief time that he has been here to try and absorb all of the information that we give him. So we'll see how it goes."
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