FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Danny Amendola is Bill Belichick’s kind of player.
After battling injuries throughout 2016, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound receiver has had some of the best moments of his five-year Patriots’ tenure during their past two playoff runs.
It started last year with his touchdown catch and game-tying 2-point conversion during New England’s comeback win over Atlanta in the Super Bowl.
Amendola’s been just as dependable this postseason. He caught 11 passes for a playoff career-high 112 yards in New England’s divisional-round win over Tennessee.
He then hauled in two touchdown catches, including the winner, in the Patriots’ AFC championship game win over Jacksonville. He enters his third Super Bowl as New England’s leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns this postseason.
“When you look up `good football player’ in the dictionary his picture is right there beside it,” Belichick said of the 32-year-old. “It doesn’t matter what it is. Fielding punts, third down, big play, red area, onside kick recovery — whatever we need him to do.”
Often Tom Brady’s third option in the passing game behind Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, Amendola reworked his contract this past offseason just to stay in New England.
“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said. “Any negative thing or anything that’s tried to hinder me, I try to ignore and focus on the positive things that have been going on in this building for the last five years for me.”
Belichick credits Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, then the St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator when Amendola was there in 2011, with recognizing his potential.
Amendola was originally signed by Dallas as undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech in 2008. Following stints on the practice squads for the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, he was in his third season with the Rams when he caught McDaniels’ eye.
“You saw a good player in St. Louis, but you didn’t see all the things behind the scenes that you kind of can see when you actually have the player on your team,” Belichick said.
“Josh saw that and he made us aware of all the things that Danny does and how well he does them.”
When McDaniels got back to New England in 2012, he pushed Belichick to sign Amendola when he became a free agent in the spring of 2013.
Amendola’s role increased in 2017 after Edelman tore the ACL in his right knee during the preseason and Malcolm Mitchell went on injured reserve for a knee injury prior to the start of the regular season.
Amendola found himself in the game plan even more when Chris Hogan had a shoulder injury in Week 10 at Denver.
Whether it was those injuries or Gronkowski leaving the AFC title game with a concussion, Amendola said he’s tried his best to adapt.
“I don’t feel any added pressure,” he said. “Every play I’m competing my tail off to try to win the route, win the block or whatever my job is on that play.
“Whoever is in the game, whoever is beside me, I have a lot of trust and faith in them whether it’s Gronk or Cookie (Brandin Cooks) or Hoagie (Hogan). Whoever it is, I know we have a lot of trust in this room.”
That trust has morphed into what Amendola describes as an unspoken language on the field with Brady. Now, a simple glance from his quarterback can lead to an adjustment that can be the difference between an incompletion or a touchdown.
“He’s made so many big catches,” Brady said. “I’m always looking for him at some point. I mean, he’s a big part of what we do, so he’s never not part of what we’re doing.”
As for his postseason success, Amendola says he’s always brought the same approach.
“It’s a lot about preparation, circumstance, opportunity, being ready and no fear,” he said. “Just get out there and get it done.”
NOTES: The Patriots did not practice Wednesday, but Gronkowski was listed with a concussion on the injury report the team is required to release. Joining him on the list were defensive lineman Deatrich Wise, Jr. (concussion), defensive lineman Malcolm Brown (foot), running back Mike Gillislee (knee) and offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle (knee).