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."

Bennett says he is 'just chilling' and hasn't given free agency 'a ton of thought'

Bennett says he is 'just chilling' and hasn't given free agency 'a ton of thought'

Will Martellus Bennett be back with the Patriots next season?

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport says it's "a real possibility" Bennett leaves given the asking price and potential offers.

Less than an hour later, the unrestricted free agent sent out a tweet responding to speculation about his future.

Bennett, who will 30 years old in March, had seven touchdowns in 19 games in his first season with the New England Patriots. 

 

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

LeGarrette Blount knows where he wants to be for 2017. Ever since he re-joined the Patriots in 2014 following a short stay in Pittsburgh, the 250-pound back has been very open about how he wants to play out the rest of his career in New England. 

Those feelings haven't changed, even as he faces free-agency after having recorded the best season of his seven-year career.

"I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind, knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England," he told NFL Total Access on Monday. "I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I've become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is.

"We'll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I'm in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to."

Blount finished 2016 with career-highs in attempts (299) yards (1,161) and touchowns (18). His ability to help the Patriots close games in the fourth quarter was notable throughout the course of the season, and he was among the most effective goal-line backs in the league. His 18 rushing scores are a franchise record.

Toward the end of the season, as Dion Lewis worked his way back into the Patriots offense, Blount had his workload cut into, and his fumble in the Super Bowl was a near-catastrophic moment -- his devastated reaction to which was caught expertly by NFL Films. But a big-picture view of Blount's year would reveal that he  posted the most prodictive "big back" season the Patriots have had in more than a decade.

Blount signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason after seeing his 2015 prematurely ended by way of a hip injury. He turned 30 in December.