Stephon Gilmore will be on the field this Sunday in Carolina, but he will be wearing a Panthers uniform after he was traded by the Patriots last month in exchange for a 2023 sixth-round pick.
Speaking to New England-based reporters on a conference call Wednesday, Gilmore indicated part of the reason why things didn't work out with the Patriots this year was he didn't agree with how they handled his quad injury.
Gilmore suffered the injury Week 15 last year against Miami, had surgery that same month and then missed all of the offseason workouts at Gillette Stadium. The cornerback then started the summer on PUP (physically unable to perform), but was never seen on the field again until he was traded to Carolina on Oct. 6.
“I wasn’t ready at the beginning of training camp, I’m going to be completely honest with you," Gilmore said. "The only thing [was] I just didn’t like how they handled my situation with my injury. A lot went on with that that I didn’t agree with and now that I am here, I am able to do the things I need to do to get me back and be ready to where I need to be.
"I learned a lot there and got a lot of friends there, a lot of great coaches. I just didn’t like how they handled my situation with my injury.”
Gilmore also acknowledged his contract -- $7 million this season in the last year of his deal -- was an issue, but he's playing on the same deal now that he's in Carolina.
“It’s a reason also too, but a lot goes into it," he said. "It’s not just one specific thing. At the end of the day it’s a business. [The Patriots] treat it like a business and we made the best decision for each other.”
The 31-year-old wouldn't answer whether he would be playing for the Patriots this season if he didn't get a new deal/wasn't traded (Gilmore could have come off PUP beginning Week 7).
"I don't know that," he said. "I couldn't answer that truthfully because I'm not there. I don't know, like, if I was on that same schedule if I would've played. I'm here now. I'm playing. I feel better."
Following conversations with Bill Belichick, it was determined it was better for Gilmore and the Patriots to move on.
“Like I said, we had a conversation and it was better for both of us to go in opposite directions — whether it was the contract, or whatever -- it was better for both of us to go our operate ways," Gilmore said.
The 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year said he was surprised when he got the call from Belichick telling him that he was traded.
“It was better for both of us to be in this position," Gilmore said. "I am happy I am back home now and things just didn’t work out. In life you have to move on and adjust and handle your situation the best way you can.”
Gilmore made his debut with the Panthers last Sunday against the Falcons, playing roughly 20 snaps and recording an interception.
After the game he said he would have a little extra motivation facing the Patriots this week, but downplayed it Wednesday, saying he's just happy to be playing again after missing so much time.