Larry Izzo looks ahead (and back)
By Karen Guregian, Boston Herald
Sunday, July 5, 2009
The memories from eight seasons in a Patriots [team stats] uniform and
three Super Bowl championships aren’t likely to fade from Larry Izzo
[stats]’s mind any time soon.
As Izzo said from his home in Houston on Friday, even though you must
turn the page quickly when you join a new team, you just can’t wipe
out the impact of being coached by a great like Bill Belichick, or
playing alongside Tedy Bruschi [stats], Richard Seymour [stats], Mike
Vrabel or Tom Brady [stats] overnight, if ever.
You have to put those memories aside, and move forward.
While it was a bit odd at first, Izzo said he has already gotten used
to again wearing enemy colors, just as he did nine years ago when he
left the Dolphins for the Patriots. Signed as a free agent by the Jets
in March, Izzo has gone green without too much difficulty.
“I’ve been very excited about getting to know my new teammates,
learning the defense, the terminology in the kicking game, and trying
to figure out how they do things,” the three-time Pro Bowl special
teams player said. “The quicker you can do that, the more successful
you’re going to be.”
Until this past week, Izzo really hadn’t talked much about his
departure from Foxboro and hooking on with the Pats’ bitter rivals.
In a wide-ranging telephone interview, the longtime Pats special teams
captain waxed poetic about Belichick, his new coach Rex Ryan, his
favorite Patriots memories, and whether or not his intimate knowledge
of the Pats playbook may come into play when the AFC East rivals meet.
The 13-year veteran thanked Belichick and the organization when he
left, but Friday he went into great detail about what the coach meant
“My experience with Bill, I think we all owe him a great deal,
especially anyone who’s been a part of those Super Bowl teams,” Izzo
said. “Our lives are a lot better because of Bill Belichick. There’s
no better coach in football in the history of the game. I learned a
lot from him on a daily basis. The attention to details, things of
“The last couple years, he really spent a lot of time with the
linebackers. Obviously, I didn’t get much time as a linebacker, but
having sat in those meetings, I always enjoyed listening to him . . .
I really couldn’t say enough good things about Bill. He’s a great
coach and played a huge role in my life. I enjoyed my eight years
there, and I’m very grateful that he valued the role that I played and
what I brought to the table.”
With New York, Izzo is just getting to know Ryan, who made waves
recently by saying he wasn’t about to bow to Belichick, or, as he put
it, “kiss” Belichick’s rings. When asked what he thought about his new
coach’s bravado, Izzo gave Ryan high marks.
“I think a lot of times a team takes on the personna of the coach. And
what we have, we have a very confident coach. I wouldn’t want to go
into battle with some guy that thought we were going to get out butt
kicked,” Izzo said. “There’s different approaches to things. . . . I’m
enjoying every minute of playing for Rex. I’m excited about the
The decision to sign with Gang Green was made easier for the
34-year-old Izzo, given his history with Jets special teams coach Mike
Westoff, who coached him with the Dolphins. No doubt Westoff pushed
for Izzo, knowing his leadership abilities, skills and his schooling
in the “Patriot way.”
Izzo said no one has yet picked his brain about the Pats, their
tendencies or their playbook. That may occur closer to Week 2 this
season, when the teams hook up for the first time. Izzo downplayed the
notion that he may provide great intelligence on the Pats, although he
didn’t deny having some secrets to share.
“We really haven’t crossed that bridge yet. But as you know,
everything is on film these days. I could sit there and say, ‘Hey, Tom
Brady’s pretty good. Or, Wes Welker, watch him on third down, or watch
Kevin Faulk [stats]. Or (Randy) Moss can run real fast.’ Those are the
basics right there,” Izzo said with a laugh. “Obviously, having spent
eight years in one place, you learn a lot about the system and stuff.
But I don’t know how much that benefits. Coaches have the same
preparation each week for their opponent. Even if you sit there, and
you think you know some secret, you’re still going to prepare the way
Unlike Miami’s Joey Porter, Izzo isn’t about to make any bold
proclamations about the Jets being the team to beat in the AFC. Even
though he’s no longer a Patriot, he hasn’t forgotten many of the
lessons, especially when it comes to what players should and shouldn’t
“I think it’s going to be a very competitive AFC East. I think it’s
going to be a dogfight,” he said. “I’m very excited about what we have
going. We have a lot of talent in our locker room.”
Izzo, who was appreciated locally for his tireless charitable work and
his popular “Larry-oke” night, which raised money for military
charities, couldn’t cite one favorite Patriots [team stats] memory.
“We had some great victories, whether it was a last-second win with a
field goal, or blowing someone out. I’ll cherish every one of them,”
he said. “But for me, the main thing is the relationships. Any time
you have those experiences where you have a goal at the beginning of
the year, you work your butt off, and you have a bunch of adversity,
and you still achieve that goal . . . and at the end of the year, to
say you’re the champion, there’s nothing like that, and to do it with
some people you consider with great friends, and to do it when some
people counted you out, like we did the first year . . . those are all
great memories I’ll always have.”
Izzo and his wife, Mara, became first-time parents to a son, Boston,
who is 3 months old. Given his name, it’s pretty obvious they enjoyed
their time here.
“I’ll always love the city of Boston. It’s such a great place, one of
the greatest cities in the world. I’ll never forget those parades,”
Izzo said. “You’d sit there in a three-hour parade, and you’d see a
million-and-a-half people showing you love like that, I’ll never
forget that. It shows how great those fans are. It was a lot of fun
playing for those fans. They’ve always been good to me and my family.
I’m thankful I’m going to another team (whose fans) have a similar
No trouble crossing border
Izzo has made smooth transition to the Jets
By Christopher L. Gasper, Boston Globe
July 5, 2009
Larry Izzo is on the Other Side now. Some in these parts would call it
the Dark Side. He’s a member of the New York Jets, a switch of
affiliations that is akin to Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter
(remember him?) reneging his Republican status to become a Democrat.
Owner of three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, Izzo signed with
the J-E-T-S in March. The 34-year-old has adjusted to life on the
other side of the Border War.
“Obviously, when you first make the move, the first time you’re in the
building it’s a little surreal, crossing over to another team in the
division,’’ said Izzo, who came to the Patriots in 2001 after five
seasons in Miami. “But having done it once already I was able to make
a smooth transition.’’
Going to the Jets reunites Izzo with Jets special teams coordinator
Mike Westhoff, who was Miami’s special teams coach when Izzo went from
undrafted rookie out of Rice in 1996 to special teams sensation.
Izzo joined the Patriots with a reputation of being one of the
league’s best special teams performers and cemented that during his
time in New England by going to two of his three Pro Bowls. Last
season, Izzo led the Patriots in special teams tackles with 14, the
sixth time he led or tied for the team lead, but coach Bill Belichick
didn’t show a lot of interest in his special teams captain.
Izzo’s deal with the Jets is a one-year contract that carries a base
salary of $845,000, the veteran minimum for a player with 10 or more
years of NFL experience.
“It wasn’t as if there was any great attempt, not to get into too many
details,’’ Izzo said. “It was time to move on. I had a nice
conversation with Bill. [Patriots owner] Mr. [Robert] Kraft reached
out to me when the news came that I would not be back. The eight
years, the experience I had there with that organization, I wouldn’t
trade it for the world.’’
Izzo is excited to play for new Jets coach Rex Ryan, who has drawn
attention this offseason for his outspoken comments.
“It’s awesome,’’ said Izzo of playing for Ryan. “He’s a really
high-energy, very positive coach. He has been around a lot of football
all his life, very similar to Bill Belichick’s background in terms of
being a coach’s son and being around football at an early age.
Obviously, their styles are different, but as far as what they bring
to the table there are similarities. It’s just they have different
ways of doing it.’’
Ryan raised eyebrows when he made it clear in a radio interview that
he did not harbor reverence for Belichick and his Super Bowl titles.
“I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings,’’ Ryan told New
York’s WFAN last month. “I came here to win. Let’s put it that way . .
. I’m certainly not intimidated by New England or anybody else.’’
Belichick’s Super Bowl baubles are the same as Izzo’s, so what did he
think of his new coach’s comments?
“I didn’t interpret it in any negative way at all. I didn’t feel
slighted or disrespected,’’ said Izzo. “I didn’t think that was the
intention of his comments.
“A lot of times the media tends to blow things out of proportion and
take a comment and twist it. That situation, it might have been
twisted. That’s not to say I’m not going to back up anything perceived
from it. We’re going to go out and play physical and be aggressive and
be an attacking type of team. We’re a confident team. The guys I’ve
seen I’ve been very impressed with as players. I’m excited about what
I see out there, and I’m sure Rex is, too. We’re confident, and from
what I’ve seen we have a reason to be.’’
The New York area is not foreign territory for Izzo. His father,
Larry, was born in the Little Italy section of Manhattan and went to
high school on Long Island, where he met Izzo’s mother, Terry. But
Boston will always be a big part of Izzo’s life. Two weeks after Izzo
signed with the Jets, he and his wife, Mara, had their first child, a
boy named Boston Alexander Izzo.
Izzo's made a career out of being special
Thursday, August 16, 2007 BY SHALISE MANZA YOUNG
Journal Sports Writer
FOXBORO — On the first day of his first training camp with the Miami
Dolphins a dozen years ago, Larry Izzo knew there was one way he would
stick: as a special-teams player.
Izzo had enjoyed a nice career at Rice University, setting the school
record for tackles for a loss with 46, and winning the team's MVP
award. But at 5-foot-10, 228 pounds, he was a little undersized to
play linebacker in the NFL.
So from his first practice with then-coach Jimmy Johnson, he set his
mind to being the best special-teams player on the Dolphins. Soon, he
was one of the best special-teams players in the league.
"I knew on Day One of training camp," Izzo said this week, "if I was
going to make the team, I had to show up in the kicking game and take
that approach every year.You always want to prove you have a greater
role, but I know what pays the bills in my house."
Fortunately for Izzo, there are few coaches in the NFL who value
special teams more than New England's Bill Belichick. So in 2001,
after five years in Miami, 95 special-teams tackles and a Pro Bowl
appearance, Belichick brought the free agent to the Patriots.
Since then, the nearly 33-year-old Houston native has added two more
trips to Hawaii to his rÉsumÉ, and has led the Patriots in
special-teams takedowns in all but one of his six seasons here,
totaling 144. He has also been the special-teams' captain since
arriving in New England.
"Larry is a very professional, very competitive guy. I think he's
probably one of the most professional guys I've ever been around,"
Belichick said. "In the kicking game, Larry obviously has tremendous
experience and he has a great mentality for it. He's aggressive, he's
quick, he's instinctive. He understands how to use leverage and his
speed and his quickness and how to make those things count for him in
the kicking game. He's very good at that."
When asked what it takes to be good at his job as special-teams' ace,
Izzo waxes poetic.
"You have to be a tough football player, you have to have athletic
ability, you have to be able to run — the same things that make a good
football player," he said. "But the one thing that you have to be is
tough and physical, you can't be afraid of contact. It's organized
chaos. You have to be able to decipher things in a hurry."
Occasionally, Izzo gets to play with the defense, and Belichick has no
qualms about his performance there either.
"Larry doesn't get a whole lot of reps defensively, because that's not
his primary role, yet whenever we put him in on defense, he rarely
makes a mistake and often times he plays pretty productively. He is a
guy that, kind of like a backup quarterback, doesn't get a lot of
snaps, but when he goes in there he plays pretty well," Belichick
Izzo has made military veterans a personal cause. In 2005, he was part
of the NFL-USO trip to the Middle East, the same trip Benjamin Watson
took this year. Izzo and Benjamin have talked several times about
their experiences overseas, and how the journey was life-altering for
both. Izzo's "Larryoke" karaoke event has raised more than $400,000 in
two years for charities that benefit soldiers.
He has put off the event until next spring so he can focus fully on
football and then fully on the event, which has quickly become a
favorite with his teammates.
Befitting a man who must play with reckless abandon, Izzo's red hair
and goatee give him a Tasmanian devil-like quality. And though he is
undoubtedly a wily veteran after 12 years, Izzo doesn't like the idea
that he's possibly lost a step at 32.
"I feel quick. Am I as quick as I was at 21? You'd have to ask someone
else that," he said. "When people hear you've played a long time, they
assume [certain plays are made on experience]. Experience helps, but I
work hard to stay in good shape. I depend on those skills as much as
Izzo staying on board
By Mike Reiss, Globe Staff | March 7, 2007
Entering his 12th NFL season, linebacker and special teams captain Larry Izzo wanted to see what type of interest he might generate in free agency.
The Texans were a possibility. So were the Jets. But in the end, Izzo felt most comfortable returning to the Patriots, so the sides finalized a contract yesterday.
"In the end, my main goal was to stay here in New England," said the 32-year-old Izzo, who tied for the team lead with 15 special-teams tackles last season. "As a free agent, you explore your options, but I'm just very happy that I was able to come to a decision to be able to stay here."
A three-time Pro Bowler as a special teamer, the 5-foot-10-inch, 228-pound Izzo has been an ironman, missing only one game since joining the Patriots as a free agent prior to the 2001 season. The special teams unit lost an important veteran when Don Davis retired, so having Izzo return took on added importance.
Another factor for Izzo was his familiarity with his teammates and the Patriots' way of doing things.
"For me, that was something that was important," he said. "When you get up and you go to work every day and you enjoy getting up and going into the stadium, that says a lot for the people you work with, whether it's the players, the coaches, the trainers.
"We have a good core group of guys who have been together here for a while. I like the program."
Izzo also likes the Patriots' recent free agent signings.
"Obviously, you don't win any games in March," he said, "but whenever you bring in some talent the way we've brought it in here the last couple of days, it's pretty exciting, especially considering where we finished last year."
Izzo has it covered
On special teams he has few peers
By Ron Borges, Globe Staff | December 24, 2006
FOXBOROUGH -- Larry Izzo may never have read the inscription on the lintel at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece but he could have written it.
It was there, the ancient Greek historian Plutarch claimed, that one of the most famous maxims was inscribed: "Know thyself." It is a phrase attributed to at least five Greek philosophers, including Socrates. No one claims Izzo ever said it himself, but he's certainly lived it, which is why 11 years after entering the NFL as an undersized, undrafted rookie out of Rice University he's still hauling down a paycheck for hauling down kick returners who are always faster and often bigger than he is.
It is a young man's job, many would say, for there are few 11-year veterans still found throwing their bodies into 1,000-pound wedges of moving blockers, but then again there are not that many 11-year veterans period, so Izzo is unique simply for having survived so long. What makes him unique even among the unique though, is the fact that he has played in 154 regular-season games and 15 more in the playoffs and never started a single one.
For many that would prove too daunting a mental exercise. The ego would get involved at some point and it would play tricks on you, arguing internally against your self interest, demanding an expanded role be found for your skills. Not long after that, the wheels of football unemployment would begin to roll and the player who does not know himself would be gone.
Larry Izzo remains.
"The way I came into the league it was pretty easy to accept," the 32-year-old Izzo said last week while discussing his role as kingpin of the Patriots' kick coverage teams between trips to the masseuse and the cold tub that keep his dented body operational. "I knew as an undrafted rookie that the best way to make the team was in the kicking game. I found a niche. I welcome that role. I don't resent it. Maybe that's the most important thing.
"After 11 years, I understand my role in this league. Do you get frustrated at times? I'm not going to lie to you. Yeah. But I can't say I lose a lot of sleep over it. I know I'm not a Tedy Bruschi or a Junior Seau. A lot of young guys waste a lot of energy not concentrating on the role they have to play, but worrying about the role they don't play. Some focus too much on not being comfortable playing primarily in the kicking game. Pretty soon they're on the street."
The role Izzo has played has not often been a starring one, but rather one of best supporting actor. Even as an unknown rookie in Miami in 1996 he made an impact, blocking three punts and finishing second on Jimmy Johnson's Dolphins with 10 special-teams tackles. It was enough to make him a first alternate on the AFC Pro Bowl team, an All-Pro in the pages of Football Digest, and a member of several all-rookie teams.
A year later however, Izzo suffered the most serious injury of his career, a torn left Achilles' tendon in a preseason practice that sidelined him for the year. For a player like him, one from whom little was expected when he arrived in the NFL, it would have been easy to disappear. Instead he came back the following season and made 10 tackles on special teams in 13 games before tearing up his right knee and again finishing the year on injured reserve.
Was this to be a trend? If so, it would not be a long one because players who cannot stay on the field are soon permanently asked to leave it. Izzo understood this, as he seems to have always understood his circumstances, and through a blend of hard work, steely aggressiveness, and some luck, he has missed exactly one game since, playing in 125 of his last 126 regular-season games. Such reliability of body and mind is one reason Izzo has the second-most special-teams tackles in league history at 224, trailing only Buffalo's Mark Pike (283). It is an enviable record for a guy playing a most unenviable position.
It is not easy to run downfield at breakneck speed year after year, time after time avoiding men looking to behead him or engaging their blocks and then shedding them in time to throw himself into a fast-moving train wreck called a punt or kick returner. Yet it is an art Izzo mastered long ago and never has forsaken nor tried to deny.
It is a journeyman's role some might say, but it is his role and one few have ever played as well as this bantam rooster of a man. Although far from physically imposing, Izzo is as solid as a steel girder and about as malleable. At 5 foot 10 inches (yeah sure), Izzo has often been the shortest linebacker in the league but that is something he thinks of about as often as he thinks about a need to change his circumstances -- which is to say not at all.
"All I ever wanted to do was play professional football," Izzo admitted. "Since I was 4 or 5, playing in the backyard with my father and my brothers. All I wanted was an opportunity.
"I didn't expect to be drafted because of my size and the school I was coming from. Rice is not a place known for No. 1 draft choices. But that all benefited me. My approach when I got my chance in Miami was to be very hungry. Every play I was trying to show I belonged here. Eleven years later, that's still my approach. You sit and watch people on film at linebacker and sometimes you think, 'I can do that, too.' You have to catch yourself when that starts to happen because if you begin to fixate on that kind of thinking pretty soon you're not getting your job done.
"We all have pride and confidence in our ability or we wouldn't be in this league, but when those things creep into your mind you have to be disciplined enough to ignore them. You remind yourself you have a job and you don't make the decisions so just do your job. Look, I understand my role, but it's a balancing act. You don't want to tell a guy not to have [higher] goals. You want a guy to be confident he can play but you don't want to outsmart yourself and think you're better than you are. That can be a problem when you're in your fourth, fifth or sixth year and you're looking to expand your role. After 10 years, you accept this is what you do. You don't see many guys becoming a starter in their 11th season."
Yet for all the difficulties and frustrations of spending a career covering kicks, Izzo has made the most of it. He has been to the Pro Bowl three times (2000, 2002, 2004), won three Super Bowl rings, become a legend among his peers, and made more tackles at full speed than all but one man ever to play his position. As a legacy goes, it's not bad for a guy who came out of Rice hoping just to get to run down the field one time and hit somebody before they hit him.
"A lot of guys don't want to admit it but the fear is not about getting hurt," Izzo said of his job. "The fear is getting embarrassed. Nobody wants to have that happen to them. What you fear is not getting the job done. Not getting off blocks. Not making the tackle. It's going to happen sometimes, but you have to minimize it.
"It needs to hurt when you don't do well. It needs to devastate you when you don't do well. That's the passion I carry. I've been blessed to be in this position. To play with some of the greatest players who ever played in some of the biggest games and to make plays in those games. Football is a tough, physical game of aggression. Those are the things that categorize my personality. I can't imagine being involved in another profession. This is what I know. When it's over I think I'd like to get into coaching, if my family is willing to make the sacrifice. It's not like I'm going to be going into the insurance business."
For 11 years, Izzo has willingly been in a business for which you cannot buy insurance. The high-speed chase business of covering kicks in the NFL and it's still his aim. That and never forgetting what was written on the lintel at the Temple of Apollo oh so long ago.
Ron Borges can be reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.
Special team leader -- again
By Ben Rohrbach/ Daily News Staff
Thursday, August 17, 2006
FOXBORO -- While the media crowded around Patriots backup quarterback Matt Cassel during training camp yesterday, Larry Izzo walked alone toward the exit at the corner of Foxboro Stadium's practice field.
The last man off the field, Izzo appeared like a man not expecting to be stopped by the New England public relations staff.
"There's a core group of special teams guys that make their careers on the kicking game," said Izzo. "Obviously, we have pride, because if it wasn't for that role you wouldn't be here. So, I'd hope we have pride in that. If you don't have pride in that role, then you're probably not going to stick around or be that productive." 7
Izzo has stuck around almost solely for his ability to contribute on special teams. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Dolphins in 1996, Izzo is listed as a third-string inside linebacker on the team's unofficial depth chart.
Still, his contributions are crucial, and his teammates recognize that fact, voting him a Patriots captain in each of his five seasons with the Patriots.
"I think special teams -- the kicking game -- is a very important part of the game," Pats head coach Bill Belichick, who got his start with the Detroit Lions in 1976, said last week. "I was a special teams coach for the better part of my career in the early years. I guess when your job hinges on that, you tend to realize the importance to it."
In Izzo's 10 previous years in the league -- including three Pro Bowl seasons in 2000, 2002 and 2004 -- Izzo has seen his fair share of special teamers come and go. And each year, as with the defense and offense, it's an adjustment incorporating new players into the fold in training camp.
"It's the same situation," said Izzo. "You're taking new guys and trying to teach them your system and how you want it done here, and sometimes that's different than how they did it wherever they were previously. So, there is an adjustment period, but the sooner you can pick it up and do it the right way -- the way we do it -- the better off you'll be, and the better off we'll be."
Guys like free agent linebacker Barry Gardner or rookie Stephen Gostkowski -- who was the lone kicker at practice yesterday with the absence of Martin Gramatica -- have to learn a new system, just as rookie running back Laurence Maroney has to pick up the offense.
"We do a lot of different things, but we do a lot of things that are the same," said Izzo. "Based on our personnel, our coaches -- (special teams coach) Brad Seely -- will find things to take advantage of particular skills that one guy might have over the other guy, so that can change year to year or week to week."
And if lower-round picks like defensive back Willie Andrews and linebacker Jeremy Mincey don't learn quickly, they might not be walking off an NFL practice field 10 years from now.
DOUBLE DUTY: Special teams ace likely to play more LB
By ERIC McHUGH
The Patriot Ledger
FOXBORO - Don’t go there.
‘‘There’’ in this case being the sideline scuffle between linebackers Larry Izzo and Willie McGinest during the New England Patriots’ playoff loss in Denver in January.
To refresh your memory: The Broncos’ Mike Anderson had just darted in for a 1-yard touchdown run - a play set up by Champ Bailey’s 100-yard interception return. Moments earlier, the Patriots had been knocking on Denver’s door, threatening to take the lead. Now all of a sudden they were down, 17-6, and McGinest was jawing at Izzo, even sticking a hand in his face before fellow linebacker Mike Vrabel moved in to play peacemaker.
It was a rare PDA (Patriot Display of Animosity), one played out in full view of CBS television cameras. That’s what losing in the postseason will do for you.
From his new home in Cleveland, McGinest already has trashed former Patriots cornerback Duane Starks. So far, McGinest hasn’t added Izzo to his hit list, and Izzo has made it quite clear that he wants no part of either revisiting the incident, or giving his side of the story.
‘‘Like I said, bro, we’re done with last year,’’ Izzo said. ‘‘Come on ... I don’t even remember that issue. Turn the page. Turn the page.’’
Consider it turned.
And yet, one angle of the dustup might still be relevant. While Izzo’s 11-year career has been built on the bedrock of special teams prowess (three Pro Bowl nods, five straight seasons as the Patriots’ special teams captain), it was his work on defense in that playoff loss that sparked McGinest’s ire. The crime? Izzo, who had outside containment in the goal-line package, had let Anderson get outside him for the TD.
With McGinest having relocated, Tedy Bruschi nursing a broken wrist (the team confirmed the severity of the injury last night) and Chad Brown also out with a hand/wrist problem, the Patriots’ linebacking corps is short-staffed. Beginning with Friday’s preseason opener in Atlanta, that likely means more defensive snaps for three players who projected to be core special teamers - returning veterans Don Davis, 33, and Izzo, 31, plus free agent Barry Gardner, 29.
‘‘I’d love to play (defense),’’ Izzo said before Bruschi and Brown went down. ‘‘I’d love to see the field more. Obviously, it depends on how I do out there. As (coach) Bill (Belichick) says, your role on this team is what you make of it. Hopefully, I’ll go out and play well and compete and earn a spot. Whether or not that role is expanded is not really up to me.’’
Despite being undersized for the Patriots’ system at 5-11, 228 pounds, Izzo received a pre-injury vote of confidence from Bruschi, who said early on in camp, ‘‘If the situation arises where Larry Izzo has to play regular defense on an every-down basis, I would have no concerns. Do I have to say any more?’’
Three defensive plays stand out from Izzo’s first five seasons with the Patriots.
In 2002, he couldn’t prevent Kansas City’s Priest Holmes from vaulting over the pile to score the tying touchdown on the final play of regulation in a game the Patriots won in overtime. In 2003, his late end-zone interception preserved a 31-0 shutout over Buffalo in the regular-season finale. Last year, he and Vrabel combined to rake a potential touchdown catch out of the arms of KC’s Tony Gonzalez.
‘‘I feel good about what I’m capable of,’’ said Izzo, who has 214 career special teams tackles but only 17 on defense. ‘‘I have to go out there every day and try to get better and be perfect. I’m trying to be perfect every day. I had a bust out there today mentally, so I don’t feel good about it going into the locker room. I gotta work on that and hopefully correct the mistake and get better.’’
Of course, Izzo’s other responsibility during training camp is presiding over the new-look special teams. Gone are kicker Adam Vinatieri, punt returner Tim Dwight, kickoff returner Bethel Johnson and sure tacklers Matt Chatham and Michael Stone. Free agent safety Mel Mitchell, who was expected to give the unit a boost, is out for the year with an arm injury.
The competition to fill those spots is wide open at this point.
‘‘You (media) guys are out here watching,’’ Izzo said. ‘‘There a lot of new faces, a lot of bodies. Everybody’s fighting for a job. Whoever is there at the end of the day, that’s who’s going to be there. It’s not for me to decide or for (another player) to decide or for anybody to predict. It’s kind of pointless to do predictions because there’s so much that could happen between now and the opening games.’’
Maybe change will be good for the Patriots’ special teams, whose lackluster showing last season culminated in a disastrous outing in the playoff loss - three penalties, two turnovers and a missed field goal.
It’s not all on Izzo’s shoulders to get that fixed, but there’s no doubt that his fellow special teamers - if not a certain ex-teammate - hold his skills in high regard.
‘‘Larry’s been doing this a long time,’’ Davis said. ‘‘This is what he’s majored in. He’s been very good at it over the years. He’s a Pro Bowl guy, the type of guy you want to lead the special teams.’’
Eric McHugh may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Copyright 2006 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Izzo has been playing in pain
Steadfast Patriot honors late father
By Michael Smith, Globe Staff, 11/30/2003
FOXBOROUGH -- Be advised that you are reading this against Larry Izzo's wishes. If it were up to him, he would stay in his place, which, as the Patriots' special teams captain, usually means in the background. That is, until the end of the season, when he's voted to the Pro Bowl. Right now, though, he doesn't want to be the story. Not even a story. He'd rather the focus stay on his 9-2 team, which plays the 9-2 Colts today at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Izzo honestly feels he did nothing out of the ordinary in the days leading up to games against the Browns Oct. 26 and the Broncos Nov. 3. He simply did what he was taught to do. Nothing more. You be the judge.
Izzo's father, Larry, lost a seven-month bout with pancreatic cancer on Saturday, Oct. 25. Izzo had learned the day before that his father didn't have much time and immediately left Foxborough for the family's Houston home. He was with his father in his final hours. He returned Saturday night and played the next day against Cleveland -- his 100th career game. He made two special teams tackles and reportedly received a game ball in the postgame locker room.
That night, Izzo boarded a plane back to Houston. A memorial service for his father, who had served in the US military, was held Tuesday, Oct. 28. Izzo was back at Gillette Stadium by Wednesday night. He was with the team Thursday and with his family that Friday morning, Oct. 31, for his father's funeral at West Point, N.Y.
On Monday, Nov. 3, Izzo made four special teams tackles in Denver.
"I already had a lot of respect for Larry, so it would be hard to have any more," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "But that just shows you the character he has."
Nothing special. Chalk it up to upbringing.
"This is my job," Izzo said last week. "And that's the way I was raised by my father. He didn't take days off. That's what he would have wanted, was for me to go out and play. I mean, it wasn't even an option. Secondly, it was helpful for my family for me to be doing what I do. It enabled them, and it continues to enable them, to have a break away from thinking about things."
Izzo's father was the one who first put the football in Larry's and his brother's hands. The Izzos are a football family. They still have home video of the Izzo boys tackling each other in the backyard on Sunday afternoons.
"My family's always been very supportive of my career," said Izzo, 29. "Anything that would take away from my career, no matter what, they were against. That's how my dad always was and that's how my family continues to be. They're very concerned about me staying focused on my career, which enables me not to be worried about being home with them because the most important thing to them is my career.
"It was just important for me, on Sunday, to pay tribute to my dad by playing in that game. I was grateful for the opportunity to play and pay tribute to him, and also it enabled my family, who was all together, to come together as a group and watch the game and take their mind off other things."
As one might imagine, it has been difficult for Izzo to keep his thoughts on how the Patriots can better provide protection on field goals and punts.
"My dad's always on my mind," said Izzo, who made it a point to spend summer vacation with his father. "Every day he's popping in my head. And it will continue to be like that. Football has been a way for me to get away from the mourning process. It's been a relief to be able to play football."
The Patriots helped make that possible by excusing Izzo from practice during game week and seeing to it that he had the game plans and scouting reports.
"Bill [Belichick] was very flexible," said Izzo. "The whole organization, from Mr. [Robert] Kraft, to the coaches, to Bill, to the players, was very supportive. That's something I'm very thankful for. They gave me as much flexibility as I needed. I missed some days of practice and they got me the information I needed. Just the support I received through that was something I'm grateful for. I'm glad they enabled me to get the time I needed with my family but then come back and play."
Izzo was home for the recent bye week, but certainly it was no vacation. He had a homecoming of sorts last weekend when the Patriots visited the Houston Texans, but something, or rather someone, was missing from the celebration. As will be the case come February, when Izzo is married in Houston.
Izzo takes comfort in knowing his father lived a good life. And that he was a good man. Izzo said approximately 500 people attended the memorial service.
"The love and respect that he was shown was a great tribute to him," said Izzo, "and my family was very appreciative of that."
More than 100 paid their respects at West Point.
"And it's not easy to get to West Point," said Izzo. "No one lived there. It was a beautiful fall day. My dad loved the fall. The foliage up there off the Hudson River. It was a wonderful day.
"To see all his classmates from West Point, there were 30 or 40 of them that attended the services. People who were part of my dad's life all through my life, to see them, whether I saw them 20 years ago, 10 years ago, they were all there to pay tribute. It was very touching for my family. It was very fitting for the man that my dad was."
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.