Jones excited for bigger, better sophomore season

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Jones excited for bigger, better sophomore season

FOXBORO -- Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones made sure to gently correct a reporter at Monday's year-end media availability.
"We're not rookies anymore," he said.

He was correct -- by a matter of hours.
New England had just gotten bounced from the playoffs by Baltimore in the previous night's AFC Championship game. After a quick turnaround, Jones was back in the locker room to box up his first season in the NFL.
He managed a positive attitude.
"It was exciting. I learned a lot," he said. "The offseason's the time to get bigger, faster, stronger, and spend some time with strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash and assistant Moses Cabrera, and get ready for next year."
Jones had 45 tackles, six sacks, three forced fumbles, and two pass breakups for the Patriots. As far as sophomore year goals go, he's keeping it simple.
"Just to become a better player overall," he said. "Not anything specific. I'm excited for a full offseason to work out, to be honest with you."
He will also rehab the ankle that gave him trouble in 2012. Jones initially injured the joint against the Colts in Week 11. He missed New England's next two regular season games before returning in Week 14.
A second ankle injury befell Jones in January's Divisional Playoff win over the Texans. Though he was active for Sunday's game, he played just a few snaps of goal line defense.
"It really hurt not to be out there with my team," Jones said. "It was very unfortunate that I didn't get a chance to play, as much as I wanted to. But I'm back to congratulating the Ravens."
He is in a unique position in terms of dealing with last weekend's loss.
Chandler's older brother Arthur is a defensive end for the victorious Baltimore Ravens. This year's Super Bowl appearance will be the first of the elder Jones' three-year career.
In that way, the younger Jones is torn.
"I'm not really happy that we lost, but I'm very excited for my brother," Jones said. "Congrats to him. I still haven't decided yet if I want to go or not."
That Arthur's ticket to the title game was punched at New England's expense makes the trip a hard choice for Chandler. But it's about competitiveness more than bitterness.
He has learned, as a Patriot, to always leave Gillette with his head held high.
"It was a part of the game regardless of what the score was. We have guys like Vince Wilfork, and Rob Ninkovich, and Tom Brady -- they're always trying to keep us going forward. They're never with their heads down and that's what you need to be a leader by example."
The message from those veterans and head coach Bill Belichick?
"Basically, just be ready," he said. "Come back next year and do it all over again. Stay strong."

Gronkowski nominated for Walter Payton Man of the Year Award

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Gronkowski nominated for Walter Payton Man of the Year Award

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski is up for one of the NFL's most prestigious awards, and it's not simply for what he's done while on the football field. 

The Patriots tight end is the team's nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, it was announced on Wednesday. Each year the award recognizes one player for his excellence on and off the field.

“We’re proud to honor these outstanding men who represent the NFL’s best on and off the field,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “Our players have a unique platform to make a difference far beyond the field of play. We salute these individuals who are exemplary in their commitment to making a positive impact in communities across the globe through their dedicated service and philanthropic efforts.”

The winner will be announced in Houston on the night before Super Bowl LI.

Gostkowski named AFC special teams player of week

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Gostkowski named AFC special teams player of week

FOXBORO -- It's been an uncharacteristically erratic season for Stephen Gostkowski, but on Sunday the Patriots Pro Bowl kicker was dialed in. And his four field-goal performance against Los Angeles earned him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. It is the second time this season and the fifth time in his career that Gostkowski has been named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, having also won the award after the first game of the season at Arizona. 

Gostkowski's missed four field goals so far this season. He hasn't missed four in a year since 2012 when he missed six field goals. He's also missed three extra points. While the Patriots were a little downcast about the inability of their offense to close out drives against the Rams, an ancillary benefit was undoubtedly Gostkowski having a day that should boost his confidence going forward.