FOXBORO -- Joe Cardona is best known for wearing his Patriots uniform. But there is another uniform that he dons that is much more important than the one he wears on Sundays.
That would be his Naval uniform, which Cardona wears with an incredible amount of pride. The Patriots' long snapper is going to be a popular man this week, with Gillette Stadiumon Saturday.
Cardona is always down to talk about his time at the Naval Academy and his "day job" as a lieutenant in the Naval reserves. His unit is based out of Newport, Rhode Island, where he's a supply officer who handles logistics for 500 sailors.
"I hope my sailors look at me like an officer who cares about the mission, who cares about his sailors, and I think they probably look at me as a Patriots player. That's indistinguishable," Cardona told WBZ-TV's Steve Burton in an interview for Patriots GameDay.
"But ultimately, when I put on the uniform, it doesn't matter that I've played nine years in the NFL. It doesn't matter that I'm a two-time Super Bowl champion. It doesn't matter any of those accolades -- all that matters is that I'm there for them and doing my job and performing," he added. "When you talk about a job that important, it's unmatched. You have to show up and do it because it's national security. It's the Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy. You have to be on all the time."
That is what Cardona has always wanted in life. The fact that he also gets to play professional football is a nice bonus for the 31-year-old.
"Going the Navy route was, I don't want to say it was predestined, but I grew up in San Diego. My dad was in the Navy. It was my dream school, where I wanted to be," he said. "I never had any sights of playing in the NFL. Not for a second. Never thought I'd play a down in the NFL.
"I wanted to go to the best school I could and serve my country after. The Naval Academy, when you talk about those two goals, that is all you could ask for," he said.
And just as his Naval officers are intrigued by Cardona's other career on the football field, his Patriots teammates are equally as interested in his life away from football. Cardona is more than happy to share his experiences with them.
"When my teammates look at me coming in from work or doing different things, they have a lot of question," said Cardona. "They ask what I do on that side. When i got back from Djibouti, they ask what it was like over there and what the mission was.
"It's a pleasure to share these experiences with them. I have a good bunch of guys on this side that have a great interest in what the men and women are doing around the world to defend their freedom," he said.
The Patriots have stumbled their way to a 2-10 record this season, which has not been easy for a lot of players to handle. Cardona has the unique experience of handling adversity in the military, and while he doesn't believe he handles it any different than others, his background does have him well-equipped to deal with this disappointing year.
"In the military we're given tools and training to handle tough times and difficult circumstances. When we're called to do something that is very hard, we have to be prepared to do it. My hope is that in this season, we can compartmentalize, set aside what has gone on and focus on what is immediately in front of us," he said. "That's what I stress to some sailors; when time is tough there is no magic pill or anything that will work miracles. It's just work.
"We have no choice but to come out and play hard, and that is what it's about," he said of the 2023 Patriots. "Doing the different things, overcoming adversity, and becoming better players and better men in the long run. We have a great group of guys that is committed to each other and committed to making the most of the opportunities we have left. You can't take anything for granted in this league."
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