The New England Patriots made a roster move on Tuesday, and if you were one of the many people rooting for J.T. Hassell to find a spot on the team, you were probably bummed by it.
The Patriots released the linebacker-turned safety from Florida Tech after signing him on November 30, per ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss.
Patriots practice-squad transaction: Safety J.T. Hassell released. A short stay for the Florida Tech alum who was signed Nov. 30.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) December 8, 2020
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Hassell Hoped to Catch On as a Special Teamer or Depth Guy
After spending some time on the Cleveland Browns’ roster, Hassell was released this season, despite his obvious athleticism and intangibles. The Patriots brought Hassell in for a look earlier in the season but didn’t sign him until late November.
Hassell was a part of Patriots practices last week, but his stint with the team ended relatively quickly. Coming out of college, Hassell had eye-popping athletic numbers at the NFL Combine as Fan-Sided’s Elliot Kennel mentioned in an article shortly after the Browns released the 25-year-old.
He had good grades from Pro Football Focus last year in limited reps, and crushed his Pro Day last year, with a 4.38 40-yard dash, a 42-inch vertical, 23 reps on the bench press and a 6.84 in the 3-cone drill. Are you kidding? How can he not make the team?
Nonetheless, Hassell caught on with the Patriots in hopes of finding his niche.
Hassell Has Defeated the Odds Getting This Far
Hassell had plenty of odds to overcome as he continues to chase his NFL dream. Beyond hailing from tiny Florida Tech and playing his collegiate career as an undersized linebacker who was forced to switch positions to safety in the NFL, Hassell was born with physical challenges.
Due to a birth defect, he was born with only two fingers on his left hand. Because of this, Hassell has been overcoming the odds since birth. As you can see on this interception from his time in camp with the Browns, he has worked around his physical differences to achieve.
In a 2019 interview with Space Coast Daily, Hassell talked about his challenges growing up and finding comfort with himself.
“Growing up, I just thought I was different all the time—like I wasn’t normal. I would always hide my hand in my pocket. Now, I’m more comfortable with it and just being who I am.”
What’s Next for Hassell?
The release isn’t out of the normal.
Many fringe talents bounce around for a few years before finding their lane in the NFL or ending their playing careers. It’s not completely out of the question the Patriots could call Hassell back in to be a part of their practice squad. Several members of the Patriots’ PS have been on and off the list throughout the year.
Just as the Patriots gave Hassell a look earlier in the year only to bring him back in November, the same thing could happen over the next few weeks or even before the beginning of next season. If not the Patriots, another NFL team may see a need for his services.
Even if this is the end of his attempts to establish a long NFL career, Hassell has already proved to be a winner.