Versatile Van Noy finds home, place on Patriots defense

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Bill Belichick will probably never see it, but Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy left a thank you note on social media for his coach anyway on Thursday

"Happy anniversary to me and my trade day! What a day that turned out to be!" Van Noy wrote on Twitter to commemorate the two-year anniversary of his trade from the Detroit Lions.

Among the hashtags at the end of the post were "thanksbill," a digital shout-out to his notoriously social media averse Patriots coach.

It's also was a continued celebration of a journey to New England that Van Noy said he considers to be "a blessing."

Van Noy was still trying to find his place in the NFL in 2016 when he got the call that he had been dealt to the perennial Super Bowl contender.

Two years, two Super Bowl appearances, a Super Bowl ring and contract extension later the linebacker has grown into one of the Patriots' key cogs on defense.

"It's big time," Van Noy said. "Happy to be a part of this."

Despite often being the odd man out with the Lions after they drafted him in the second round in 2014, Van Noy arrived in New England and almost immediately found himself being put to use alongside linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

Van Noy played both middle and outside linebacker during his seven regular-season appearances in 2016 and was on the field for all three playoff games, including the comeback Super Bowl win over Atlanta.

Those efforts were rewarded last season when the Patriots signed him to a two-year, $11.7 million contract extension.

"Kyle has a lot of versatility for us. He can do all of the things really that a linebacker needs to do," Belichick said. "Play the run, rush the passer and play in coverage. He does a good job at all of them and his versatility has been valuable for us."

Van Noy has validated the faith Belichick showed in him.

His 73 combined tackles ranked third on the team in 2017 and his 5½ sacks were second only to Trey Flowers' 6½.

Van Noy also saw his responsibilities increase, including being given the responsibility of wearing the wired helmet to receive the defensive calls from the sideline.

The Patriots have struggled to limit teams this season, giving up 400 or more yards in five of their seven games. But Van Noy has remained one of their most consistent players as they've tried to work through their issues.

He has started all seven games and is second on the team with 36 total tackles. He also has one of the Patriots' 10 interceptions.

In addition, Van Noy has shown value on special teams, scooping up Hightower's blocked punt in the third quarter at Chicago last week and returning it 29 yards for a touchdown in New England' 38-31 win.

The Patriots will need a similar output as they prepare for their fourth road game of the season at Buffalo on Monday. New England's win at Chicago is its only win away from Massachusetts this season.

Van Noy said sharing the field with Hightower has made him a better player.

"Playing with someone like him, obviously he's an incredible player," Van Noy said. "We know what each other's doing.

"I've played his position. He's played mine. So it's easy to know what each other has to do. We play off each other. He can count on me and I can count on him. ... We try to have that foundation for the rest of the guys."

Notes: Rookie RB Sony Michel (knee), CB Eric Rowe (groin) and OL Brian Schwenke did not participate in practice on Thursday. It is the second straight day that Michel and Rowe were absent from practice this week. Michel was helped off the field in last week's win at Chicago and eventually carted to the locker room after he had his leg pinned underneath him on a tackle by Bears lineman Bilal Nichols. Rowe continues to be dogged by the groin issue that has contributed to him missing three games this season.


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