New England running back Brandon Bolden revealed Thursday he had surgery in 2018 after a cancer diagnosis and recovery. Steven Senne/Associated Press

Following one of the best seasons of his career, Patriots running back Brandon Bolden received some of the worst news of his life in 2018.

He had cancer.

That offseason, Bolden was diagnosed with a form of carcinoma, he told reporters Thursday. The 31-year-old back opened up about his diagnosis and recovery after posting photos of his previously unknown cancer battle to Instagram in the afternoon. Shortly after the Patriots lost to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, Bolden said he underwent surgery and lost function on the right side of his face.

Nonetheless, he returned to Foxborough for training camp that summer. Bolden remembered most of his teammates weren’t even aware of his ongoing recovery. While the Patriots cut him in early September, he quickly landed in Miami, and played the entire season with the Dolphins.

“I didn’t think I was going to play another down in the NFL,” he said. “And here I am three years, going on four years, after having the surgery and still working strong. It was kind of one of those inspirational type deals for me, because that took a lot.

“It was a lot of naysay from doctors and everything else, and then I am here to prove people wrong and grow and get stronger.”


Bolden re-signed with the Patriots in 2019, then opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This season, he’s enjoyed a breakout year offensively as the team’s new third-down back, with career highs in receptions (37), receiving yards (364) and total yards from scrimmage (540). Bolden replaced James White after White suffered a season-ending hip injury in Week 3.

Long a core special team player for the Patriots, Bolden is also one of the team’s most respected leaders and a favorite of Coach Bill Belichick.

“Whether it’s an offensive player, a defensive player, a coach, anybody,” Belichick said on Dec. 16, “the way (Bolden) goes about things, his consistency, his unselfishness, his ability to do whatever the team needs him to do, play tough, when he’s banged up, play in tough situations and come through is really an inspiration for all of us.

“He’s had a great year for us, and he’s really come through so many times, as he always has, when we’ve really needed him.”

MATTHEW SLATER and Lavonte David are nominees for the fourth time for the NFL’s Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.

The league announced Thursday the eight finalists for the honor that recognizes players who best demonstrate the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.


Joining Slater, a wide receiver and special teams standout for New England, and Tampa Bay linebacker David are Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen, Houston receiver Brandin Cooks, Miami defensive back Jason McCourty, New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan, San Francisco fullback Kyle Juszczyk and Minnesota wideout Adam Thielen.

A panel of former players that include Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin selected the eight finalists from the 32 team nominees. The panel also is comprised of Warrick Dunn, Leonard Wheeler and Larry Fitzgerald, who won the first Art Rooney award in 2014.

ROOKIE SAFETY Joshuah was placed on injured reserve with a calf injury, which will cost him at least the next three weeks.

Bledsoe was a healthy scratch for both games he could have played this season: losses at Indianapolis and versus Buffalo last weekend. Bledsoe spent all summer and most of the regular season on the Non-Football Injury list, after undergoing two wrist surgeries in the spring.

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