Only now — maybe — can John Simon take time to let the whirlwind of the past year sink in.
Months of uncertainty and stress for the former Ohio State defensive end were capped by two priceless events in two weeks — a Super Bowl championship and the birth of a son.
Simon was cut by the Indianapolis Colts after the preseason, but he latched on with New England in late September and became a situational player during the Patriots’ run to another title. Twelve days before New England’s victory over the Los Angeles Rams, Simon’s wife, Brittany, gave birth to their second son, Elijah.
“I’m still trying to fathom it,” Simon said. “Everything happened so quickly.”
The Youngstown native was regarded as the heart and soul of Urban Meyer’s first Ohio State team, which went undefeated in 2012. The Baltimore Ravens drafted him in the fourth round of the next year’s draft, but he then bounced to Houston and Indianapolis as he battled numerous injuries.
Simon had a productive year in 2017 with the Colts, but was told he wasn’t a fit for their new coaching staff’s system and was cut Sept. 1.
“You just roll with it,” he said. “I’ve been cut before. It’s part of the business. It’s not a good part of it, but you have to adapt and move forward.”
But the stress increased as a couple of workouts with other teams didn’t result in offers. Then the Patriots signed him to a contract after a workout. Brittany and their son Enzo, who turned 2 last week, stayed behind until late in the season.
“She did it all, really,” Simon said. “I kind of kept my head down and focused on work, just trying to make sure I didn’t lose my job so I wouldn’t have to tell her, ‘Your husband is unemployed again.’ ”
Simon fit in with the Patriots, who prize versatile and intelligent players who can make the week-to-week schematic changes for which coach Bill Belichick is known.
Brittany and Enzo moved to the Boston area late in the season after the Simons finalized plans to deliver the baby in nearby Providence, Rhode Island. She went into labor on Jan. 22, hours before she would have been induced.
Elijah — the Simons call him Eli — was healthy, giving Simon some peace of mind before he left for the Super Bowl in Atlanta five days later. Simon played on 14 snaps and had a pass break-up in New England’s 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. In his previous five seasons, Simon hadn’t made it past the second round of the playoffs.
“It was a tough year for our family with all the traveling and trying to move our whole lives to Boston and get all that figured out while she’s pregnant — and then delivering our new son there while preparing for the Super Bowl,” Simon said. “It wasn’t the ideal situation, but it turned out to have a great finish. It was awesome.”
Simon is an unrestricted free agent and hopes the Patriots re-sign him. The 28-year-old wants to continue his career long enough that his sons can have a memory of him playing.
“Right now, Enzo will just run around on the field clueless,” he said. “If I could get him to appreciate what his dad does, that would be awesome.”