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."
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin indicated that stunts like Antonio Brown’s Sunday night video are the kind that get good players shipped out of town.
“He's a great player, respected largely in the locker room but incidents such as this don't help him in that regard,” said Tomlin told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette and others at a Tuesday press conference in Pittsburgh. “That's often why you see great players move from team to team. Don't want that to happen to Antonio Brown.”
Tomlin, who referred to the Patriots as “a--holes” after the Steelers beat Kansas City in a Divisional Playoff game, apologized for his profanity and the other off-color comments made in the 17-minute broadcast.
“Like to say the language on the video is regrettable, by me and by others,” Tomlin stated.” That's why we go to great lengths to preserve certain moments and interactions between us. As a parent, as a member of the community I take that very seriously. I issue an apology in that regard.”
Tomlin added that he has “absolutely no worries on the video's effect on the game, on the Patriots, on the Steelers. Game is too big.”
Returning to Brown – who has yet to address why he thought this was a great idea – Tomlin said, “It was foolish of him to do that, selfish and inconsiderate. It was violation of our policy, league policy. He has to grow from this. He works extremely hard, he's extremely talented and those things get minimized with incidents like this."
After speculation and “Do it; you won’t” cries from Patriots fans as to whether Roger Goodell would show his face at Gillette Stadium for the AFC Championship, we’ve now got our answer: When the Patriots and Steelers kick off Sunday in Foxboro, the commissioner will be 1,045 miles away.
Goodell will reportedly attend the NFC Championship Sunday in Atlanta, continuing his absence from Patriots home games since the start of Deflategate. For those inclined to call it merely a coincidence, Goodell was in Atlanta last week for the Falcons and Seahawks. This will be two straight weeks of Atlanta -- with a trip to Kansas City for Chiefs-Steelers mixed in -- and still no New England.
Tom Brady, whom Goodell suspended for four games over the ball-deflating scandal, was asked on WEEI Monday about the possibility of Goodell attending a game in New England.
“He’s the commissioner, so obviously whatever he wants to do, he can do,” Brady said on Kirk and Callahan. “If he wants to come, that would be -- yeah, he can come.”
Asked if he wanted Goodell at the game, Brady replied, “He can go wherever he wants to go. Whoever is at the game is at the game.”
Equally popular as the will-Goodell-ever-go-back-to-Gillette discussion has been that of how Patriots fans would react. Last week, something of a light feud between Michael Felger and Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy took place over what kind of behavior towards the commissioner is acceptable.
That all remains a moot point, however, as Goodell won’t need to worry about being berated, spit on or anything else. Any of that will continue to be put off for as long as he stays away from Gillette.