FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — He is currently in his eighth NFL training camp. His next birthday (Jan. 26, 2020) will be his 30th.

Yes, Brandon Bolden has long since beaten the long odds he faced when the Patriots brought him in to the league as a rookie free agent in 2012.

Still, the 5-foot-11, 220-pound running back, who has made his major impact in the NFL on special teams, isn’t looking back. He’s only looking ahead.

“As long as my wife’s saying I can go out there and play,” Bolden said following Monday’s training camp practice on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, “I’m going to keep playing.”

This marks Bolden’s second stint with the Patriots, who signed him after he’d gone undrafted out of Mississippi, his first coming to an end last September when he was released by the team and subsequently signed by their AFC East rivals, the Miami Dolphins.

So in that respect, the (relatively) old guy feels like a bit of a newcomer in New England.

“Coming back in, I’m pretty much the new guy, so I’m looking at it as something I’ve got to re-learn,” Bolden said of the locker room leadership role he’d grown in to. “Everybody’s already (spoken) kind of highly of me, but still I’ve got something to prove because I wasn’t here last year. So I’m back to the same thing.”

Football life in Miami was certainly different for Bolden, the Dolphins’ 7-9 finish a year ago marking the first time in his career he wasn’t suiting up to play long into the NFL postseason.

“Six years and I’ve been to the AFC Championship (Game) six years in a row. So last year was my first time missing it. Yeah. It was different,” he admitted. “I had a daughter, I want to say two days after they won the Super Bowl, so I had my hands full with that. But, past that, it was (different). It was kind of, well, I don’t have (anything) to do so I guess I’ll watch these playoff games. I don’t even watch playoff football. Me and my wife (Arianna) had a long conversation about it. I haven’t caught a playoff football game in a while. So, yeah, it was kind of different.”

Ironically, the highlight of his one NFL season away from New England came against the Patriots on Dec. 9 when he carried the ball twice for 60 yards and two touchdowns, one of them a 54-yarder in the second quarter, in the Dolphins “Miracle In Miami,” their improbable 34-33 win at Hard Rock Stadium.

Eight months later, Bolden feigns selective memory.

“I wasn’t at that game. I don’t know (what happened),” said Bolden. “Somebody wore my jersey, but I don’t know.”

Bolden’s number hasn’t been called all that often on offense over the years. He’s a 1,000-yard rusher, but it took him seven seasons to get there (224 carries for 1,003 yards and eight touchdowns over his career). He’s also caught 50 passes for 386 yards and three TDs, but 40 of his receptions came in two seasons (21 in 2013; 19 in 2015). He has a grand total of 10 in other five combined.

It is as a core special teamer where Bolden has made his mark, totaling 34 tackles in the regular season and five in the postseason, including the one that pinned the Falcons in at their 11-yard line with 57 seconds left in regulation, setting up the overtime in the Patriots’ 34-28 win over Atlanta in Super Bowl LI.

Last Thursday, though, in the Patriots’ 31-3 preseason-opening romp at Detroit, Bolden played the part of first-half workhorse in the backfield, carrying 12 times for 41 yards and catching two passes for another 19 as his team jumped to a 20-0 halftime lead and never looked back.

“Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to go out there and do it,” Bolden said in explaining his approach to the game. “I just want to play football. Whether it’s at running back. They can put me at safety. They can put me at linebacker. They can put me at kicker if they want to try. I can’t kick worth a lick, but you know what, if they want me to go out there and try it, I’ll go out there and try it. Whatever they want me to do, I don’t ask questions. The most I ask is how you want it done, and I’ll go out there and try to perform.

“Like Bill (head coach Bill Belichick) says all the time, ‘The more you can do.’ So the more you can go out there (the better). You could give a look at receiver or if you could go back there and block, oh, let me help you get this look at safety because this is how they’re going to play it. It’s the more you can do. You can help in every aspect. The more you can do on special teams, the more you can do on offense, the more you can do on defense, it all ties in to each other. So it’s just the more you can go out there and do, the better you help yourself.”


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