While 64,000 others inside Gillette Stadium reached a crescendo, roaring as the all-time great who quarterbacked New England’s football team in 326 games declared himself “a Patriot for life,” a rookie halfway through his debut silently stuck to intentions.
Ninety minutes earlier, Chad Ryland had driven his career-opening kickoff beyond Gillette Stadium’s south end zone. Now, minutes away from the third quarter, he faced that same direction as one of a half dozen Pats and Eagles’ specialists getting loose again for the resumption of play.
Behind them, Tom Brady punctuated a speech spoken to express gratitude and exclaim the two defining virtues of the championship teams he was part of as a Patriot. You either cared about “each other” and “winning,” Brady, told the crowd, or you weren’t cut out for Foxborough. And if you landed elsewhere, Brady’s Pats couldn’t wait to play against you.
By turning his back to Brady, the rookie kicker wasn’t being disrespectful. He was, instead, acting out Brady’s words, readying himself for that possible instance in a tight game when teammates would rely on him — speaking of Patriot priorities — to simply do his job.
“Obviously, I have the utmost respect for what he’s done,” Ryland replied, when asked Sunday night if he at least took a peek at Brady or was taken by anything Tom said. “I was just trying to stay in tune with what I could do at halftime and have an intentional warmup.
“In a close game, where we know it’s going to finish close, you never know when you might be needed. That’s the biggest thing. With everything I did today, it’s just the intentionality of it all. That was my main goal, to be intentional with absolutely everything.”
It’s interesting that Ryland should repeatedly refer to being intentional.
In her latest book, “The Right Call: What Sports Teach Us About Work and Life,” The Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins writes a chapter on ‘Intention.’ It just so happens, the sports figure to whom she devotes the first dozen pages of the chapter is none other than, yep, Tom Brady.
Jenkins also cites words written by entrepreneur Richard Branson: “Intention in its very essence is a futuristic act.” Branson, who regularly blogs about business and advocacy, also wrote that a day devoid of intention “is a day wasted” and that productivity, leading to success, can’t occur “without intention.”
With intention, Branson founded a record company and expanded his interests to include a luxury airline. Ryland’s main intention is to get kicks off the ground with a repeatable leg motion that projects footballs on consistent flight paths.
He practiced intentionality last weekend first while undistracted by a pregame downpour. His ‘futuristic acts’ in the first half were three kickoff touchbacks and two extra-points.
Although there was no make-it, win-it opportunity in the opener’s final two quarters, halftime intentionality could set him up for his shot this week. Or the next week.
Watching Ryland in warmups, he followed every strike by walking in a small circle, looping away and back toward his spot. It was a way of resetting, as if he just stepped off the sideline and onto the field in-game.
“That’s just me trying to stick to my routine, how I would be in a game and not just rattle balls off,” Ryland says. “It’s just helping me to stay in a rhythm, part of my preparation for the game.
“It’s all the same to me, whether it’s a 50-yarder, a 20-yarder or a 33-yarder (PAT). I’m taking my same swing every time and I want to be consistent. The same swing every time. That’s consistency at its finest.”
Overall, Patriots special teams coordinator Cam Achord was pleased with how Ryland and rookie punter and holder Bryce Baringer prepared themselves for their first regular-season experiences. Especially considering the rainy conditions.
“I thought they did a real good job handling everything that was thrown at ‘em,” Achord said Tuesday in a video conference. “Being ready. Being alert on the sidelines. They’re starting to evolve and realizing what it’s like to be a professional.
“Every game you’re out there, I kind of tell everybody, you’re not a rookie once the first game’s over. You’ve just got to keep moving on. But there’s a long way to go, for sure.”