De­spite work at full­back, Pats’ Roberts still de­fense first

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - As­so­ci­ated Press

By Ken Pow­tak

FOXBOR­OUGH, MASS. (AP) >> Pa­tri­ots line­backer Elan­don Roberts still con­sid­ers him­self a de­fen­sive player no mat­ter how much more time he’s been get­ting at full­back. His out­fit showed it, too. “I’m 100 per­cent a de­fen­sive player,” he said af­ter prac­tice Thurs­day, stand­ing at his locker wear­ing a sweat­shirt that read: “Be­ware of the Boggey­men” — a phrase coined by line­backer Dont’a Hightower, re­fer­ring to New Eng­land’s top-ranked de­fense.

“But when it’s this late in the sea­son and it’s play­off time and you’re tak­ing this game like a play­off game, all your play­ers have to be used,” Roberts said. “When I’m on the of­fen­sive side, I’m go­ing to do what I can for those guys.”

The Pa­tri­ots host the Mi­ami Dol­phins in the sea­son fi­nale Sun­day, and Roberts could see more time with Tom Brady.

With the team’s run­ning game sput­ter­ing mid­way into the sea­son, Roberts was asked to jump over to the other side of the ball, tak­ing a few snaps at full­back in a Week 7 vic­tory over the New York Jets.

In five of the next six games, he had 16 to­tal snaps at the po­si­tion be­fore col­lect­ing 10 and 21, re­spec­tively, the past two weeks, with the larger num­ber com­ing when the team’s run­ning game got on track in a vic­tory over Buf­falo last Satur­day that clinched the Pa­tri­ots’ 11th straight AFC East ti­tle. Tail­back Sony Michel had a sea­son-high 96 yards in the win over the Bills.

“It re­ally isn’t any dif­fer­ent,” Roberts said, paus­ing, be­fore re-think­ing his new role. “Well, it’s dif­fer­ent. It’s the of­fense.”

The 25-year-old

Roberts

has mainly been used against the run and on spe­cial teams since be­ing drafted in the sixth round out of col­lege in 2016.

Now, he finds him­self in a po­si­tion that was a trou­ble spot af­ter full­back James Develin was lost for the sea­son with a neck in­jury in late Septem­ber. Develin helped clear the way for Michel last sea­son, es­pe­cially when the Pa­tri­ots won their sixth Super Bowl with a vic­tory over the Los An­ge­les Rams.

Roberts said his ap­proach to his new po­si­tion hasn’t ad­justed the way he’s played — mainly be­cause he’s still hit­ting peo­ple.

“Nah, my men­tal­ity doesn’t change,” he said. “It’s go­ing to be how it’s go­ing to be. It don’t change. My men­tal­ity is my men­tal­ity. It’s not go­ing to change. It’s a ‘Do your job’ men­tal­ity. Phys­i­cal­ity is a part of the game. So that’s go­ing to come with

But has he taken any kid­ding from his de­fen­sive team­mates now that he’s spend­ing more time with the of­fense?

“They never do,” he said. “They just know what it’s about — it’s a team sport and I’m help­ing out the of­fense, but I’m a 100 per­cent de­fen­sive guy.”

Roberts didn’t even get ex­cited when he was orig­i­nally asked to play be­hind Brady.

“It was cool,” he said. “It wasn’t like (Wow!). It was ‘If you all need help, I’ve got ya.’”

NOTES: LB Shilique Cal­houn (ill­ness) was the only player miss­ing from prac­tice. … WR Ju­lian Edel­man (knee/shoul­der), CB Ja­son McCourty (groin), CB Jonathan Jones (groin), OT Mar­cus Can­non (an­kle), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (shoul­der) and LB Ja’Whaun Bent­ley (knee) were all limited. it re­gard­less.”

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