Matthew Mulligan has gone from the New England Patriots to the Chicago Bears, but the Maine native could still be playing at Gillette Stadium this fall.
The Bears are scheduled to visit Foxborough, Mass., and Mulligan told the Portland Press Herald on Wednesday that he was already aware that he was in line to face his former teammates.
“I think it’s just another opportunity for me to get better,” said Mulligan, who signed a one-year deal with Chicago on Tuesday. “I had a great time with the New England Patriots. They picked me up and last year was such a blessing to be back in the Northeast. Any time you play against an organization that you’ve been with before, it’s not easy. You’ve got guys over there that you care about. Obviously I want to win, I’m with a new organization, but I have nothing but respect for those guys.”
Mulligan’s new gig ended another offseason of uncertainty. He spent last season playing tight end with the Patriots, his sixth NFL team, catching two passes for 16 yards and one touchdown in the regular season. But the Patriots let him go at year’s end, making him a free agent. Mulligan, an Enfield native, returned to his alma mater, the University of Maine, to work out and field inquiries from a handful of teams, he said. The Bears were the best fit.
Chicago, with star tailback Matt Forte, likes to run the ball. Mulligan excels at blocking.
“That’s my deal. That’s what’s kept me in the league for seven years,” he said. “I know what they do is play physical. I’ve seen the Bears on film and when I’ve played them. They work hard throughout the game, every game.”
Hard work is what has gotten Mulligan to this point. He played soccer and basketball at Penobscot Valley High School, which did not field a football team. He took up football as a sophomore at Husson for one season before transferring to UMaine, where he became a FCS All-American in 2007.
He weighed 250 pounds then, but has added 17 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-4 frame while bouncing around the NFL.
“The Lord’s not a genie. You have to put in your own effort, too,” said Mulligan, 29. “You can’t make hard work easier. If you get into something that you’re really passionate about, and you really want to succeed, that’s where hard work comes in.”
Mulligan works out in Orono with another former Black Bear, Mike DeVito, a defensive end for the Chiefs. Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said it provides great inspiration for his current players.
“They have dedicated themselves, they have pushed themselves. They do it annually,” Cosgrove said. “The message that they send is, if you want something and work as hard as they do at it, then you can get to where they are.
“It’s obvious (Mulligan’s) name has recognition throughout the NFL and I think that’s a real sign of respect for Matthew.”
Mulligan is one of five tight ends competing for roster spots for the Bears, who begin minicamp April 21. Martellus Bennett is the incumbent starter. The others are Zach Miller, Fendi Onobun and Dante Rosario.
Mulligan, with 16 career catches in the NFL, knows it will be his blocking that sets him apart. But he also doesn’t think of himself as a niche player.
“Teams always want a well-rounded athlete in every spectrum, tight ends, quarterbacks, whatever it might be,” Mulligan said. “I think there’s room for every type of ability in the NFL if you do it well. If you look at the teams that have won the Super Bowl the past couple of years, the Ravens had Dennis Pitta, but also blockers. The Seahawks, their tight end group is a very vicious group, very good blockers.
“I think each team is looking for something different. It’s been a blessing for me to be able to do this for this long.”
Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: