New England Patriots

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 12: Mike Pennel #64 of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts after a defensive stop against quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans during the AFC Divisional playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 12, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

By Alex Barth,

It’s been quite the year for Mike Pennel. The defensive tackle signed a two-year deal with the Patriots on the first day of free agency last season and was penciled into a starting role on their defensive line.

Fast forward to training camp, and Pennel struggled to stay on the field. An impressive start from Byron Cowart paired with a scheme shift due to the emergence of Jamie Collins buried him on the depth chart. After playing deep into the Patriots third preseason game against the New York Giants, Pennel was released.

After spending the beginning of the season as a free agent, Pennel signed with the Chiefs in late October. As a situational player, he helped bolster what was a severely struggling run defense. At Super Bowl Opening Night, Pennel wasn’t willing to get into the particulars of what ultimately didn’t work in New England, but he clearly wasn’t a fan of the communication.

“I’ll definitely keep the particulars of that to myself,” Pennel said according to NESN’s Zack Cox. “But it was just with how the preseason was going and everything like that, me being a veteran, I kind of knew what was going on with the [decreased] reps and everything like that. I didn’t really understand what was going on and didn’t really get any answers. So after that point, it was a little bit of confusion, a little bit of relief when I got cut. But I’m just glad to be somewhere with a lot more transparency.”

Pennel did mention he struggled filling the role the Patriots had envisioned for him.

“It was something where, as a player, you come and you try to conform sometimes…But you can conform too much and get taken out of your playing style. So after weeks and weeks and going through training camp and everything like that, I think on both ends, it was kind of a [realization that] we’re over this. This is over with. So we respectfully parted ways after that, and that was it.”

While he did say he was trying to keep the particulars to himself, Pennel did seem to single out former Patriots defensive line coach Bret Bielema, bringing up a “disconnection between something I was doing with the defensive line coach”. Bielema has since taken a job on Joe Judge’s staff with the New York Giants as an outside linebackers coach and senior assistant.

It’s not uncommon for former Patriots, especially those who left on less than ideal terms, to criticize the team in the media. The Patriots rarely if ever give their side of the story, so for now this explanation from Pennel is the only one on why one of the Patriots biggest offseason signings last season didn’t pay off.

Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth