American Football

Former UDFA Adrian Phillips advises young players to ‘win in everything that you can’

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NFL: JUN 13 New England Patriots Minicamp
Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Veteran Patriots safety Adrian Phillips entered the NFL with the Chargers in 2014.

New England Patriots safety Adrian Phillips knows NFL rosters can’t stay at 90 forever.

The 2014 undrafted free agent from the University of Texas was part of the cutdown deadline as a San Diego Chargers rookie. Clearing waivers before signing to the practice squad, that regular season saw him let go and brought back in September, October, November and December.

But in between transactions came the first three games as well as the first tackle of his career.

Phillips, who went on to earn Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors on special teams while in the AFC West, now stands with 114 games played and 518 tackles made. He also stands with perspective to share with young players trying to keep a foot in training camp’s door.

“Win,” Phillips told reporters on Wednesday following New England’s opening practice outside Gillette Stadium. “Win in everything that you can. One of the guys when I first came into the league, that’s what they told me. They said, ‘You know, there’s no friends out there on the field. We might be cool in the locker room. We might rock around with each other. But when we’re out there on the field, it’s me against you. I gotta feed my family; you gotta feed yours.’”

The summer and fall of 2015 began with familiar movement for Phillips. Signed to the practice squad. Released from the practice squad. Re-signed to the practice squad. Promoted to the 53-man roster.

Phillips ultimately started 24 games on defense during his run with the Chargers. He has started 37 with the Patriots since arriving as an unrestricted free agent in 2020, notching one forced fumble, six interceptions along with his first NFL sack and his first NFL touchdown.

A contract extension through 2024 arrived along the way for a veteran of 1,492 snaps in the kicking game.

“The mindset when you step on that field is win by any means necessary, and that’s the way you get on the field,” said Phillips, who turned 31 in March. “Be first in every drill. Be first in every competition. Be first in the meeting room, answer every single question, and be willing to do what other people aren’t willing to do.”

New England reported for training camp with a roster featuring 17 rookies. And while the organization’s streak of at least one undrafted rookie making the Week 1 active roster dates back to 2004, there is also a long line of reserve-futures signings from the winter vying for the same.

Phillips has been there, too.

“So, if you got to be a scout-team dummy for a period, do that to the best of your ability. If you only get two reps, make sure those reps are the best that they can be,” he added. “If you got to meet with the coaches afterwards just so you feel like you’re getting that one-on-one time, get that. Do everything you can because if you don’t make it, you don’t want to say, ‘Well, what if?’”

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