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Nate Solder paints complete picture of Patriots organization in candid farewell letter

Alex Reimer
April 13, 2018 - 10:14 am

Nate Solder paints a complete picture of the Patriots organization in his farewell letter to the team on the Players’ Tribune. The left tackle acknowledges the demanding environment in Foxboro, while also lauding Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Robert Kraft for their support throughout his young son’s battle with cancer. 

It’s a reminder that people are complex. 

Solder, whom the Patriots selected with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, begins his essay talking about the emptiness he felt at the conclusion of his rookie campaign. Though the Patriots won 13 regular season games and reached the Super Bowl, he felt incomplete. Solder spent the ensuing offseason traveling, boarding different planes on a weekly basis. 

“I was a kid who thought his entire purpose was to win, and then I went to New England, where winning is everything,” Solder writes. “Only to learn that it’s not.”

This offseason, numerous reports have trickled out about the cold atmosphere in Foxboro. There have also been hints that Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are fed up. At the end of “Tom vs. Time,” Gisele Bundchen laments that her husband just wants to feel appreciated at work. When Danny Amendola signed with the Dolphins, Gronkowski told him on Instagram to “be happy and free.” 

Solder addresses the Patriots’ button-down approach and how it can wear on players.

“It can be a tough environment. It’s very businesslike, and at times it can be cold,” he writes. “Everything in New England is predicated on performance. 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.”

That’s not meant as a criticism, either. Solder says New England is a great place to play. He's especially grateful for the kindness the team showed him when his young son, Hudson, was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. Solder says Belichick and McDaniels both gave him permission to miss meetings and practices if needed. 

The turning point in Solder’s relationship with McDaniels came shortly after Hudson’s diagnosis, when the offensive coordinator spotted his left tackle weeping at the team chapel during prayer. 

“My relationship with Josh really took off from there,” Solder says. “In a cutthroat business where guys are always getting released and winning is everything and it’s all football all the time, I really appreciated the fact that he took the time to say, ‘Nate, what you’re going through with Hudson … that’s more important than football.’ He 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. He said that if I ever needed to miss practice or a meeting, it was totally fine.”

After a surveillance period in 2016, Hudson’s cancer returned last year. The fight continues for Solder and his family, albeit in New York with the Giants instead of with the Patriots.

“I’m going to miss everyone in that locker room and everybody in the organization, top to bottom,” Solder writes. “Wherever God may lead me, nothing will ever be able to replace what I found in New England.”

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