FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Maybe the day has come when they finally get their Chick-fil-A. New England Patriots players can always hope.
“We haven’t had that in a while,” said smiling offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle.
“What’s the old phrase?” fellow offensive lineman Joe Thuney chimed in. “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.”
“I’m hoping it’s in there,” added rookie defensive lineman Adam Butler. “That’s what I look forward to.”
Welcome to one of the fun days on the weekly calendar for the Patriots, which is affectionately known as Fat Friday.
When players arrive in the cafeteria every Friday afternoon, there is a surprise waiting for them, courtesy of the planning of team sports dietitian Ted Harper and, of course, the generous budget provided by owner Robert Kraft.
“We always kind of talk about what we think will be there. There’s always an element of mystery. You never want to ask. You want to smell it,” Thuney cracked. “It’s Friday, got to get those cals [calories] in.”
“There’s always a little bit of wonder of ‘What is Ted going to bring in that Friday?’” added tight end Dwayne Allen. “Some days it’s this, other days it’s that. But every Friday is something delicious.”
Allen’s personal favorite is the sushi, although for cornerback Eric Rowe, it is hard to top the Mongolian beef from P.F. Chang's. There is only one problem: It hasn’t been on the menu for weeks.
“We had that Kansas City week [a 42-27 loss in the season opener], and I haven’t seen it since,” Rowe said with a laugh.
Superstitions, perhaps, play a part in the ordering process.
Five Guys, Popeyes, Red Robin and Mac & Walt’s burgers have been go-to options on a consistent basis, according to players.
“I’m a huge fan of the Popeyes chicken, then normally we combo that with the Five Guys burgers. So you try to take advantage of those Fat Fridays,” rookie offensive lineman Cole Croston said with a smile.
“Oh yeah, that’s the combination,” agreed linebacker Marquis Flowers, who relayed that his former team, the Bengals, used to do something similar with a catered meal on Fridays.
Flowers also had some fun with the topic when asked what he might suggest for future Fat Fridays.
“Ted needs to bring in some good french fries. We need rib-eye steaks and burgers. Keep bringing in the Five Guys and maybe import some In-N-Out -- animal style.”
Regardless of what is on the menu, it is something many in the organization, coaches included, look forward to.
“We are held accountable for what we put into our bodies all week; whether it’s the random weigh-ins or body-fat tests, you’re accountable. So you look forward to that Friday where you get to eat whatever you want to,” explained Allen, the veteran tight end.
Allen noted that his former team, the Colts, had its own version of Fat Friday as well.
For some players, the meal marks a significant turning point in the work week.
“I think it’s like a nice end-of-the-working-part-of-the-week thing, where the physical stuff kind of tones down,” said Waddle, the veteran offensive lineman. “It kind of symbolizes that for me.”
It’s been a nice change for Waddle, who didn’t recall anything like it during his time with the Lions (2013-15).
At the same time, don’t expect any quarterback/offensive line bonding on Fat Fridays. Those around the team say Tom Brady, whose discipline with his diet is well-documented, usually isn’t taking part.
“I have not seen Tom in there enjoying it,” Waddle said with a smile. “He’s missing out.”