“Change is natural in the NFL.”
Change, also, has been just about the only constant for the New England Patriots and their fans since Tom Brady’s departure to Tampa Bay last March. This offseason’s infusion of free agent talent and incoming 2021 draft class being no exception.
For long snapper Joe Cardona, one of the longest-tenured “Patriots lifers” dating back to the days of Brady, this changing of the guard is nothing new. Now back at Patriots headquarters for organized team activities and minicamp beginning in June, Cardona has enjoyed seeing some fresh faces on the field and around the hallways of Gillette Stadium this spring.
Among his more notable first interactions, however, involved first-round rookie quarterback Mac Jones.
“I actually have had a chance to meet Mac,” Cardona said in a May 26 interview with Heavy. “He was actually out there the other day holding for me, so that was nice. Looked like he was pretty serious about that. That’s been my only experience with his talent level, but he’s working hard at it.”
Between taking snaps under center and trying to perfect his “other duties as assigned,” the 22-year-old signal-caller is already making an impression on his new teammates. For Cardona, it’s just nice to see Jones getting a well-rounded introduction to the NFL.
“I’m sure [Mac] will continue to develop as a holder,” he joked.
Cardona Looking Forward to Return of Fans, Brady & Gronk
This season, the Patriots’ new-look roster will attempt to clinch a playoff berth in a revived AFC East division after missing the postseason for the first time in 12 years in 2020. Instead, Cardona and the rest of New England witnessed the Buccaneers hoist the Lombardi Trophy thanks to dominant performances by Brady and old friend Rob Gronkowski, who connected six times for 67 yards and a pair of first-half touchdowns in February.
“It was great to see Tom and Rob really go out there and have a great game. It’s no surprise. Obviously, I’ve been fortunate to ride his coattails to two Super Bowls myself,” Cardona told Heavy.
The Patriots won’t have to wait too long for the most highly anticipated revenge game of the 2021 season, as Tampa Bay will travel to New England in Week 4 of the league’s new 17-game slate.
“The goal is for it to be a fun and competitive environment up here at Gillette,” Cardona said. “I think we’re all looking forward to seeing each other. It will be great to catch up after the game when we can all be friendly, but until then I think we’re all looking forward to a big Week 4 matchup.”
Fans hoping to get in the gates for the October 3 showdown will need to dish out a pretty penny on the resale market, as average ticket prices had already skyrocketed to $1,370 as of May 14, just two days after the NFL’s full schedule release.
Still, Cardona and company are just as eager for what should be a packed house in Foxborough.
“Last year was a little eerie just in terms of how the stadiums felt. They did their best to make it as much of a game day environment, but it’s just not the same without fans. … It’s going to feel great running out of the tunnel for the first time to a crowded stadium. I’ve thought about it a few times and every single time it gives me a little chill.”
How Cardona Is Supporting Over 600K Military Heroes
With Memorial Day 2021 quickly approaching on Monday, May 31, Cardona — who currently serves as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserves in addition to his role with the Patriots — continues to support his fellow everyday military heroes off the field. This year, Cardona, in partnership with USAA, is helping lead an effort to encourage Americans to offer a digital tribute to fallen military members by visiting PoppyInMemory.com.
Poppy, for those unfamiliar, comes in reference to the red poppy flower, which has been a symbol of remembrance since the early 1900s for those who gave their lives in battle to protect the freedoms we enjoy.
“We’re talking about 645,000 service members — really heroes. Men and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” Cardona told Heavy. “Poppy In Memory is a way to honor all of them. They have stories from veterans dating back to World War I, highlighting their stories, which is so extremely important.”
Now entering his seventh NFL season with New England, Cardona is a 2015 graduate of the Naval Academy, where Bill Belichick’s father, Steve, was an assistant football coach for 34 years. The veteran long snapper, a 2020 finalist for USAA’s Salute to Service Award, also represents one of only four Midshipmen currently playing in the NFL, along with Houston Texans TE Paul Quessenberry (2020), Miami Dolphins WR Malcolm Perry (2020) and Buccaneers CB Cameron Kinley (2021).