Forgive David Patten for bristling at a reporter's question during his introductory press conference on Friday. Why? Because it emphasizes an important point about the type of football player he is and what he will bring to the Washington Redskins.
The 5-10, 190-pound wide receiver officially signed with the Redskins on Friday. He was asked if he expected to see more passes come his way after spending the last four seasons in a New England Patriots passing offense that seemed to spread the ball around.
"It's not about me--it's not about one individual," Patten replied. "In New England, we all wanted to catch 10 balls a game, but it made us a better team and a better offense when a defense had to come in and prepare for all of us.
"You'll have to excuse me...I'm a little sensitive about that topic because I feel that [the New England wide receivers corps] didn't get the respect I believe we deserved. We were a very hard-working receiver corps and we felt like we could put our talent up against anyone. We felt like we had four No. 1 receivers--but we always put the team before any personal goals."
Remember, Patten played for a team that has won three of the last four Super Bowls in the 2001 and 2003-04 seasons. Yet still he believes he has something to prove.
Now Patten arrives in Washington with that same team-first attitude and demand for respect. An eight-year NFL veteran, he has started 58-of-112 games with 236 catches for 3,519 yards and 20 touchdowns. He has played four seasons in New England (2001-04), one in Cleveland (2000) and his first three seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants (1997-99).
Head coach Joe Gibbs said the team targeted Patten in part of his explosive speed when running pass routes.
"We were looking at his speed, and I have to tell you, he plays fast," Gibbs said. "When he hit the ground running, he was explosive. Plus, we checked on character issues and he is a super hard worker and a real leader on and off the field. We were very impressed."
It turns out that Patten was the Redskins' primary target when the clock hit 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, signaling the start of the NFL's free agency period.
"I don't think he went to bed that night until about 2 a.m.--I had called two or three times," Gibbs said. "We were talking on the phone, but I felt some pressure there because we had made up our mind this was the guy we were going to go after. It was a big deal for us."
Said Patten: "My agent told me that Coach Gibbs was going to call me [on Wednesday morning]. I was like, 'Coach Gibbs?' I feel like I have been fairly successful in the NFL, but I didn't think I had done that much to receive that kind of attention. It was almost too good to be true. I kept on looking at my cell phone waiting for it to ring. The phone finally rang and I was like, 'Man, this is finally happening.'"
Patten's NFL career blossomed in New England. He is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. In 2004, Patten caught 44 passes for 800 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns. His 18.2 yards-per-catch average was also a career high. Two years earlier, in 2002, Patten led all the Patriots' receivers with five touchdown catches and set career highs in receptions with 61 and receiving yards with 824.
Patten's first season in New England was in 2001. That year, he became the first player in Patriots' franchise history and only the sixth player in the NFL since 1960 to record a touchdown pass, touchdown reception and rush for a touchdown in one game (at Indianapolis).
During that same game, he was also on the receiving end of the longest play from scrimmage in Patriots history when he caught a 91-yard pass from quarterback Tom Brady.
Asked if it was difficult for him to depart the defending Super Bowl champions, Patten said: "If it wasn't for coming to such a great organization with great history and this great coach...From what Coach Gibbs has told me, I feel like I can take his word to the bank and that I won't be let down. That makes it easier.
"My hat goes off to the Patriots organization. That's the first home for me because that is the first organization that believed in me and committed to me. The whole team--we really got along well. It is almost bittersweet. I know nothing can last forever, but I also feel like the best is yet to come for me."
Patten's three Super Bowl rings give him instant credibility in the Redskins locker room. He admitted that he expects to become a leader on and off the field.
"Without a doubt, I consider myself a great leader--and that's not being spoken out of arrogance," he said. "I am not one of those guys who yells 'rah-rah,' but I have learned in doing my spiritual walk that you lead by example and that this is what I bring to the table. I am going to work hard day-in and day-out. Hopefully, when I say something to a young guy, they won't do it because I have said it to them, but they will do it because they see it in my life."
Patten comes from humble beginnings. He grew up in Columbia, S.C., and played his college football at tiny Western Carolina University and established himself as a pro in the Arena Football League before finally catching on in the NFL with the New York Giants in 1997.
A devoutly religious man, Patten's humility was on display at Redskins Park.
"I have been working for something for eight years--to be found favorably in a coach's sight and a team's sight, someone that believes in me and is willing to commit to me," Patten said. "This team has done that and I can't express my gratitude enough.
"I don't believe in making predictions because I don't know what the future holds, but one thing I promise you is that I am going to give this team, this organization and this city my 100 percent effort. I give you everything I have and you can take that to the bank."