FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Stephon Gilmore wasn’t known for having the gift of gab during his four-year tenure with the Patriots.
So, when he spoke, his former teammates made sure to listen.
“He didn’t talk to you the most. But the things he did say, if you pay attention, he’ll definitely help you out,” Patriots receiver Jakobi Meyers said.
Gilmore never played a down for New England this season as the cornerback recovered from offseason quadriceps surgery and tried unsuccessfully to negotiate better terms in the final year of the $65 million contract he signed in 2017.
Still, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year was a constant presence in the locker room, often giving his teammates tips on the sideline. Fellow cornerbacks, receivers, it didn’t matter.
“If he’d see a release that he thought was helping or that was definitely working for me he would say, ‘That one has been working, keep it up’ or if guys were just sitting on a certain play he would let me know like, ‘Maybe this is why.’”
Meyers and his teammates will now be trying to use those lessons against him this week when Gilmore suits up against New England in his second game since being traded to Carolina on Oct. 6.
Gilmore made his 2021 debut for the Panthers this past Sunday at Atlanta, grabbing a late interception in Carolina’s 19-13 win.
He said last month following the trade that he didn’t have any hard feelings with how his Patriots tenure ended. But after Sunday’s victory he acknowledged this week’s matchup with his former team carried “a lot extra” meaning for him.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
Patriots receiver N’Keal Harry said he carries the advice he received from Gilmore with him daily.
“A lot of guys don’t get to get reps like that all the time against a player of his caliber,” Harry said. “So just going up against him on the day to day, it really did help me improve as a player.”
Harry’s agent made a surprising trade request during training camp, putting his client’s future in New England in doubt heading into the season. Harry has responded with a season in which he’s averaging a career-best 15.4 yards per reception and has caught 71% of the passes thrown his way.
Now he will get the chance to show Gilmore just how much he’s learned.
While Gilmore is still working his way back to full strength, he’s never shied away from taking on the task of lining up against opponents’ top receivers.
For the Patriots, statistically that’s been Meyers, who leads the team with 45 catches for 427 yards this season.
Meyers said he’s already built up an extensive scouting report on Gilmore from going against him in practices over the past two years. He is expecting to get Gilmore’s best.
“A dog gonna be a dog. Steph is definitely a dog,” Meyers said. “He’s somebody who’s smart, aggressive. He knows the game of football. Definitely gotta be on my A-game this week if I get a chance to go against him. Whoever’s going against him definitely has to be ready because he’s one of those guys who attacks the ball and makes you pay.”