"I felt like I wasn't playing that bad (at the time of the trade)," Van Noy told the Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett at Super Bowl LI Opening Night on Monday. "I felt like I was improving each week, and that's what it was all about. But they wanted to move on from me, so it is what it is. I'm in a better spot now. I'm in the Super Bowl."
The former second-round pick missed most of his rookie season and spent 2015 as a backup. He combined for just 16 tackles and a sack in his first two seasons. In 2016, he earned the starting gig in Detroit and played in most nickel situations, compiling 23 tackles in seven games. Still, his stint with the Lions was highlighted by missed tackles and too many blown coverages.
He's thrived since moving to New England. In seven regular-season games with the Patriots, the 26-year-old compiled 29 tackles and a sack. In the AFC Championship game against Pittsburgh, Van Noy flashed, earning four tackles and a key forced fumble.
"I had a hard 2.5 years," Van Noy said. "I took a lot of heat from (Detroit media) and I took a lot of heat, in general, and I think finally playing well is kind of showing people like, 'Oh, man, we kind of should have waited just a little bit longer, maybe.'"
Much like the Eric Rowe trade, snagging Van Noy for an exchange of late-round picks and turning him into a productive player exemplifies coach Bill Belichick's unparalleled ability to scout opponents' scrapheaps, seeing beyond a player's struggles into what he can become.