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Why did Jabrill Peppers sign with the Patriots? It starts with Bill Belichick

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Many New England Patriots players, including two-time Super Bowl-winning safety Rodney Harrison and current center David Andrews, have said playing for coach Bill Belichick is like getting a high-level education in football that forever changes the way they view the game.

It's precisely why free-agent safety Jabrill Peppers signed a one-year contract with the team late last month.

"Playing for Bill, his understanding of the game, what he's done for the game, the moment I had an opportunity to come learn from him I definitely wanted to jump at it," Peppers said Tuesday from his new football home, Gillette Stadium.

"He's seen a lot of ball. He's coached in a lot of eras. So I'm just more so excited to pick his brain, see things how he sees it, curious to see how he watches film or breaks down opposing offenses."

Furthermore, Peppers said of the Belichick-led Patriots: "They like a three-safety look. They know how to use multiples. I'm already familiar with the system. I thought it was a no-brainer."

The 5-foot-11, 213-pound Peppers joins returning starters Devin McCourty (5-10, 195), Adrian Phillips (5-11, 210) and Kyle Dugger (6-2, 220) on the safety depth chart. Joshuah Bledsoe (Missouri), a 2021 sixth-round draft choice, is also in the mix assuming his previously injured wrist doesn't become an issue.

To Peppers' point, the Patriots' base defense usually has three safeties on the field, with McCourty playing 94.7% of the snaps last season, followed by Phillips' 81.1% and Dugger's 68.6%.

"I just want to go into that safety room and be another asset they can move around and disguise looks and different things. It's great having guys with similar skill sets because you can confuse opposing coaches and quarterbacks," Peppers said. "I want to add to that, compete with those guys and make it hard on the coaches to put the best guys on the field."

Before Peppers can get to that point, and also possibly take over for the departed Gunner Olszewski (Steelers) as the top punt returner, he needs full medical clearance.

Peppers said he suffered a partial tear of his right ACL in a late October game last season, and since the ACL doesn't regenerate, it required surgery. He described his recovery as "going well" and added: "I feel great. I haven't had any setbacks. Hopefully we can keep this going."

He has spent the past week and a half in New England, where he will reunite with former New York Giants head coach Joe Judge, who has returned to the Patriots as an offensive assistant. Peppers had been a captain under Judge, and would have been a strong candidate to return to the Giants in 2022 if Judge hadn't been fired.

"Pep's a guy that when you come in on Wednesdays, he wears his heart on his sleeve," Judge said in October. "He puts so much into the team, puts the team first, does everything you ask him to do to the best of his ability, brings so much juice. [He] is a productive player on the field, wears so many hats."

Judge's presence is another reason Peppers was excited to join the Patriots.

"I love Joe. He came back to New England and I wanted to come join him," Peppers said. "Now we're here, and I'm just excited to learn from some of the best coaches in the game and be implemented wherever they need me.

"I've always had a high regard for the Patriots. I came in knowing the expectations are going to be high, knowing you're going to have to work hard, ... I think I'm tough, hard-nosed, a hard worker. I still think my best ball is ahead of me."