BANGOR, Maine — New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola is hoping to be ready for opening day after undergoing minor surgeries on his knee and ankle during the offseason.
“I’m going to be ready for whatever they have me do. I feel good, I’m working out right now, I’m running fast. I feel fresh. Hopefully, I’ll be ready. We’ll see,” said Amendola Wednesday night at the Gracie Theatre on the Husson University campus.
During a nearly two hour question-and-answer period in front of several hundred fans at the Gracie Theatre, he told the fans that until he won the Super Bowl with the Patriots two years ago, the only thing he had won was ping-pong championships in his garage.
Wednesday’s event was hosted by Townsquare Media as part of a Championship Kickoff Drive Party by one of its radio stations, Sports Radio 92.9 The Ticket of Bangor.
Amendola, who grew up in Woodlands, Texas, although his parents are from Boston, took a sizeable pay cut during the offseason that could cost him $4.4 million. He signed a two-year, $8.1 million contract rather than test free agency, but he can make just $1.6 million this year.
“I have a lot of roots here, and I’ve been in situations where playing meaningful football at the end of the season wasn’t there. Playing meaningful games at the end of the season is something I really value. That’s why I’m here,” said Amendola, who had his best season with the Patriots last year when he grabbed 65 passes for 648 yards and three touchdowns.
He also returned 23 punts for 276 yards and was second in the league in yards per punt return (12).
After winning the Super Bowl, the Patriots got back to the AFC Championship game this past season only to lose to eventual Super Bowl champ, the Denver Broncos, in Denver 20-18.
Amendola is optimistic about the upcoming season. The Patriots have added several new players such as tight end Martellus Bennett from Chicago and wide receiver Chris Hogan from Buffalo, New York.
“We’ve got a lot of good guys coming, a lot of new faces, and we also have a lot of good old faces,” Amendola said. “I’m excited about it.”
He played with Bennett in Dallas and called him a “great player” and the most “creative person I know.”
Bennett recently wrote a children’s book.
“Returning punts is my favorite part of the game,” said Amendola in response to an audience question about one of the most dangerous jobs in football.
Amendola said the fact the Patriots have won four Super Bowls since 2001 and played in six altogether is a credit to owner Bob Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.
“They are just about the best at what they do,” he said.
He said Kraft is a hands-on owner who frequently talks to the players in the locker room, something most owners avoid.
Brady, who will turn 39 on Aug. 3, is a fierce competitor, he said.
“I think he can play eight more years,” said Amendola. “He’s the coolest guy. He loves to play football. He’s the hardest worker. He’s electric. He makes everybody around him better.”
Amendola wears the No. 80 to honor his idol, former undersized New York Jets wide receiver Wayne Chrebet.
“That was the only poster I had on my wall growing up,” said Amendola, who met Chrebet recently. The two have become friends.
The Super Bowl victory will always remain a highlight for Amendola. He caught a touchdown pass that pulled the Patriots within 24-21 in the fourth quarter, and New England went on to win 28-24.
“I’ll never forget it. I was too tired to spike the ball,” said Amendola.
Amendola credits his parents for his success. His father is a high school football coach and his mother is a teacher.
“My dad always told me to do what is right and treat people with respect,” said the 30-year-old Amendola.
He also exhibited his sense-of-humor on several occasions.
Fellow wide receiver Julian Edelman threw a touchdown pass to him during a game against the Baltimore Ravens and cracked up the locker room the next day.
“Tom Brady usually comes into the meeting the next day with a bag of ice on his shoulder. Julian came in with ice covering his entire arm,” grinned Edelman who considers Edelman a close friend.
Amendola has caught 342 passes in his career for 3,207 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also has returned 129 punts for 1,355 yards and 146 kickoffs for 3,430 yards.
He caught 109 passes for 1,245 yards as a senior at Texas Tech, but he wasn’t drafted.
The 5-foot-11, 183-pound Amendola was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Dallas Cowboys but spent the 2008 season on the practice squad and never appeared in a game. The Philadelphia Eagles signed him in 2009, but he didn’t appear in a game until St. Louis signed him off the Eagles’ practice squad on Sept. 22, 2009.
He played in 14 games for the Rams in 2009 and caught 43 balls for 326 yards. He also returned 31 punts for 360 yards and 66 kickoffs for 1,618 yards.
He caught a career-high 85 passes for 689 yards in 2010 and also returned 40 punts for 452 yards and 50 kickoffs for 1142 yards.
He spent two more seasons with the Rams although injury limited him to one game in 2011.
Amendola came to the Patriots in 2013 and, in his three seasons, has caught 146 passes for 1,481 yards and six touchdowns. He also has returned 40 punts for 421 yards and 28 kickoffs for 654 yards.