Nate Solder: Playing for Patriots 'can be cold,' but team was also very supportive of his son
Solder spent seven seasons in New England before signing with the Giants last month
The Patriots are the NFL's most successful team this century, winning five Super Bowls, appearing in three more, and registering at least 10 wins every year since 2003. There is little room for sentimentality in this type of environment, which goes a long way to explain why coach Bill Belichick doesn't hesitate to trade or release players, even those who seem to still be in their primes.
Left tackle Nate Solder, New England's 2011 first-round pick who signed with the Giants last month, knows all about this culture after spending seven seasons with the Patriots. Writing in The Players' Tribune, Solder talks frankly about the pressure of playing in New England.
"It can be a tough environment. It's very businesslike, and at times it can be cold. Everything in New England is predicated on performance," Solder writes. "It's a place where people sometimes treat you differently based on how you practiced that day or how you answered a question in a meeting. One day, you could walk around the facility feeling like a Pro Bowler — the next, like you're about to get cut."
Solder isn't complaining -- in fact, just the opposite.
"I don't mean that to sound harsh or negative," he continued. "It's also an incredible place to play, and I'm grateful for the years I spent there. It's just that it could be tough sometimes. The Patriots have set a standard, and the pressure is very real. That's the culture they've built — a winning culture — and it's why they've been so successful. Josh is a big part of that culture and in setting that tone."
But Solder, whose son was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 when he was just three months old, also spoke of supportive and understanding coaching staff during that time.
"[Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels] told me that if I ever needed to dip out of a meeting because the stress got to be too much, nobody would ask any questions. Coach Belichick told me the same," Solder writes. "He said that if I ever needed to miss practice or a meeting, it was totally fine. 'Whatever Hudson needs,' he said. I don't think I can even put into words how much I appreciated that — both what Bill said and how Josh handled everything. They treated me like a human being instead of a football player or a left tackle.
"That kindness didn't stop with my coaches, either. It went all the way to the top of the organization. All the way up to Mr. Kraft," who once put Solder's family up in a hotel close to the hospital where their son would undergo chemotherapy to make sure an impending snowstorm didn't affect their hour-long drive into Boston.
"It was a small gesture — a little detail that I think speaks volumes about Mr. Kraft and the Patriots organization," Solder explained. "And it's just another example of the kindness and compassion that they showed my family and me during some of our most difficult times. We never felt like we were alone in our fight."
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