Gregory striving to be a starter

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Gregory striving to be a starter

FOXBORO -- Steve Gregory walked onto the Gillette Stadium turf Thursday for his introduction to the New England media. He stretched his face toward the sun contentedly for a moment.

"Just like San Diego," he smiled.

Even after six seasons with the Chargers, don't think he'll hate Massachusetts in January; Gregory grew up in Staten Island, New York. He knows what the region is like -- that was part of the Patriots appeal.

"It's been great," he said of his new home. "Came back out here to the East Coast with my wife, and I'm excited. I'm excited to be here. Thankful to the Kraft family, coach Belichick and the organization for the opportunity to come out here and help this organization try and win a championship."

Yes, that last part is pretty important, too. The Syracuse grad gushed about how thrilled he is to move closer to home, but Gregory made it clear his focus is football.

"Just the chance to be a part of this organization. It's a winning organization," he said. "Everyone's goal is to win a Super Bowl, and I know that this gives me a great opportunity to do that."

In what capacity? Though Gregory has been used primarily as a defensive back, he also has experience on special teams. Considering New England's "the more you can do" mentality, that's not a bad thing.

Gregory knows it.

"Special teams -- that's the way I made my way in this league. I came in undrafted and really worked hard to work my way onto a roster," he said. "I did that in San Diego by playing hard on special teams; played all four. Did that for my first two years before I started to build up into playing time on defense. It's important. Special teams is part of the game and I look forward to playing and contributing on special teams as well."

His main focus will be elsewhere. The Patriots secondary needs help this offseason -- plenty of it -- and Gregory can play both safety positions as well as in the slot. His three-year, 7.05 million deal testifies to faith in his ability.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pound back is returning the favor with confidence.

"I think any player in this league . . . You strive yourself to be a starter in this league, you approach it that way. I'll approach practice, I'll approach the offseason, I'll approach everything to be a starter. I think that's the only way you can go about it. I think every player should go about it that way. The competition on the field will let it stand where it stands."

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady can be his own worst critic. That's why last week, after beating the Texans in the Divisional Round to move on to the AFC title game, he wasn't thrilled. He didn't play up to his standards. The offense struggled at points. He wore his frustration like a five o'clock shadow.

Winning is not everything for Brady, most weeks. He has an idea of how he should perform, how the Patriots offense should perform, and when those ideals aren't met, he's generally displeased. 

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

On Sunday, after beating up on the Steelers, 36-17, that wasn't the case. It was a sound performance, but it wasn't perfect. It was explosive at times, but it shined a light on areas where the Patriots will need to continue to improve. 

Despite its imperfections, Sunday was no time to brood about plays missed or lessons learned the hard way. Screw it, Brady seemed to say. They were going to the Super Bowl. It was OK to smile.  

"It was a good day," Brady said. "I mean, we're going to the Super Bowl, man. [Expletive], you've got to be happy now."

The Super Bowl berth is the ninth in franchise history -- more than any other club -- and the seventh with Brady and coach Bill Belichick. By throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns on 32-of-42 passing, Brady tied Joe Montana for the most postseason games (nine) with three touchdown passes. 

Brady will also claim the record for Super Bowls played when he and the Patriots head to Houston. And if they win, he'll tie Charles Haley for most Super Bowl wins for a player (five).

Those are lofty numbers made even more significant, perhaps, due to the fact that Brady wasn't allowed to start this season as his team's quarterback. He was asked during Sunday's postgame press conference if it was personally satisfying to get back to the Super Bowl despite having to serve a four-game suspension due to Deflategate.

"Well, that's because of the hard work of a lot of people from my coaches to my teammates to our families that support us," he said. "It takes a lot of people, a lot of hard work and a lot of effort over the course of many months. This didn't start at 6:40 tonight.

"This thing started in April. It really started before that in free-agency when we were picking up guys like [Chris] Hogan and drafting guys like Malcolm Mitchell and guy who were in rehab like [LeGarrette Blount] and [Dion Lewis] and [James Develin] and Nate [Solder]. It's a lot of hard work. There are only two teams left standing, and I'm happy we're one of them."

They're going to the Super Bowl. He has to be happy now.