After playing just six games over his final two seasons in Jacksonville thanks to shoulder and knee injuries – including missing the entire 2018 season due to torn ACL suffered in preseason action – Patriots free agent wide receiver addition Marqise Lee wants to get back to being himself in his new NFL home.
The 6-0, 190-pound Lee is after all a former second-round pick out of USC who earned a four-year, $34 million contract after catching 63 and 56 passes for the Jaguars in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Now, though, he’s playing on a one-year, $1 million deal with the Patriots. On essentially a prove-it contract, that’s exactly what the six-year veteran is planning to do for the new-look New England offense.
“I feel like for me and for what I’m trying to get back on track to I feel like it’s just the right place for me to go,” Lee said of picking the Patriots. “For me my biggest thing is I just knew the last couple years I didn’t really have the opportunity to go out there and do the things I felt I needed to do as a player. I felt like me choosing New England, to go there as far as this season was in a sense of just trying to get back to myself. I feel like which place is the perfect place to get back and try to get back to yourself other than New England. Very strict. Basically just all about football and handling your business. I feel like I was a little bit off on that point with the last two injuries I had. So I just wanted to get back on track and get everything back on point and I felt like New England was the right place for me.”
Settling into his new home, new offense and getting to know his new teammates in New England has been a challenge with the coronavirus having shut down all NFL facilities and forced teams to work virtually. Lee admits that he’s “not tech savvy,” which has been a challenge as he begins to study the offense but has indeed already gotten a feel for his wide receiver teammates.
“Seems like everybody is just down to earth and ready to work,” Lee said of Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu and others he’s gotten to know at virtual distance, though he noted he really hasn’t had a chance to communicate much with Patriots would-be starting quarterback options Jarrett Stidham Brian Hoyer.
“It’s kind of hard. It’s difficult. But everybody is going through it,” Lee said.
Overall, Lee started 30 of the 59 games he played over six years in Jacksonville. He caught 174 passes for 2,184 yards (12.6 avg.) with eight touchdowns.
Joining a Patriots receiving corps that has lots of questions after Edelman with guys like Sanu, N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers, Lee isn’t focused on statistics or any specific role as he looks to find a spot for himself in New England.
“Reliable in all aspects,” Lee said describing his play when healthy. “I’m the type of person who just tries to give everything in what the team needs me to do. Whatever they need me to do at the end of the day is what I’m willing to do regardless of what it is. That’s my main focus. I haven’t really had an opportunity to stay healthy in the league, so my main focus right now is really just staying healthy and as I stay healthy just try to do as much as I can just to help the team in whatever aspect I can they need me to help at. I’m just here. They need a healthy body. I’m just here to rock out and try to do as much as I can.”
And while his injuries were a difficult hurdle to leap, both mentally and physically, Lee makes it clear that he keeps football stress very much in stride. Lee grew up in Los Angeles to two deaf parents, including a father that reportedly wasn’t in his life much. He moved around and lived with grandparents early in life. His two brothers were involved with gangs, one who was murdered and the other spent time in jail for attempted murder, according to Wikipedia.
“For some of our backgrounds and where some of us came from, this is not the hard part,” Lee said, alluding to his upbringing. “Me having to battle and try to get a spot is not a hard position for me. This is something I’ve been doing all my life. Just go out there, try to stay healthy and make sure I compete.”
He’ll do so for a Patriots team going through a major transition in the post-Tom Brady era, not the same one that Lee faced in the AFC title game after the 2017 season as a member of the Jaguars.
“That game was crazy,” Lee said with a smile via WebEx, recalling a game the Patriots won 24-20 after trailing 20-10 in the third quarter. “I ain’t going to lie to you, I enjoyed it. Of course New England came out on top. It just showed the resiliency of New England. You could just see it in their eyes, them not giving up, them continuing to fight and continuing to rock out. That’s what I’m looking forward to. I don’t feel like none of that left the team, regardless of who is here or not. I feel like everybody on this team is willing to fight. That’s just their mentality. I’m the same way and I’m just coming to try to help.”