Rook­ies

Woonsocket Call - - SPORTS - Fol­low Bren­dan McGair on Twit­ter @BWMcGair03

“Coach [Bill Belichick] does a great job pre­par­ing all the younger play­ers. The veter­ans kind of know what to ex­pect but coach has dif­fer­ent ways of kind of let­ting those guys know what it’s go­ing to be like and what they should ex­pect,” said Brady on Fri­day when asked about eas­ing the emo­tions of rook­ies on the eve of their in­au­gu­ral play­off en­counter. “There’s ob­vi­ously more emo­tion and en­ergy. There’s more at­ten­tion but you play the game to be in these mo­ments and have these op­por­tu­ni­ties and to give your team a chance to ad­vance.”

Per Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus, Jack­son went into the fi­nal week­end of the reg­u­lar sea­son with a passer rat­ing of 31.3. At the time, that was the best among all cor­ner­backs. New Eng­land clearly struck gold when they signed him out of the Univer­sity of Mary­land. Jack­son started five of 13 games this sea­son and his three in­ter­cep­tions is tied for sec­ond most on the team.

“Ev­ery game I felt like I got tested, but I feel like I re­sponded pretty good,” said Jack­son dur­ing a scrum in front of his locker this past Wed­nes­day. “I feel like no­body is go­ing to catch a pass on me. My mind­set is to lock who­ever I have to guard and who­ever is in front of me. That’s my job … mak­ing sure he doesn’t catch the ball.”

Michel, who came from the Univer­sity of Geor­gia, fin­ished his rookie sea­son with 931 yards rush­ing. It was the most by a Pa­tri­ots rookie run­ning back un­der Belichick, sur­pass­ing the 745 rush­ing yards by Lawrence Maroney in 2006.

“We want to do the best we can run­ning the foot­ball be­cause that’s what we do most of the time. To be able to do that, you’ve got to be phys­i­cal and that’s just part of the game,” said Michel, who started eight of 13 games and scored six rush­ing touch­downs.

Jack­son and Michel are part of po­si­tion groups who know what it takes to get ready for a do-or-die play­off af­fair.

“I just feed off what they tell me and soak ev­ery­thing in,” said Jack­son, specif­i­cally ref­er­enc­ing All-Pro cor­ner­back Stephon Gil­more and the McCourty twins. “It’s my first play­off game so I’m ner­vous, but I’m ready though. It’s a ready ner­vous. The Pa­tri­ots are known for go­ing to the play­offs, win­ning the AFC, and go­ing to the Su­per Bowl. That’s just what is ex­pected here.”

Added Michel, who can lean on a two-time Su­per Bowl cham­pion in fel­low tail­back James White, “When the day comes, it’s all about hav­ing the right mind­set. I would say the guys are ex­cited and that’s way it should be. It’s good to be around that type of en­vi­ron­ment.”

The last time the Pa­tri­ots lost a di­vi­sional round game was dur­ing the 2010 post­sea­son. Back then, Rob Gronkowski and Devin McCourty were in the same rookie boat as Michel and Jack­son are in this week­end.

“You want to make sure you’re pre­pared men­tally and phys­i­cally and you just want to make sure you’re play­ing your best foot­ball,” said Gronkowski.

Added McCourty, “It’s just the in­ten­sity of each play. Each play can change the game. Ev­ery guy knows there’s no to­mor­row and you can just feel that. You feel the en­ergy. Guys are re­ally locked in and ready to go be­cause noth­ing else mat­ters.”

Sage ad­vice from the “been there be­fore” crowd. For rook­ies like Michel and Jack­son, they’ve no doubt learned that there’s no such thing as hav­ing too many guid­ing hands at the sea­son’s most im­por­tant con­test awaits the Pa­tri­ots.

Photo by Louri­ann Mardo-Zayat / lmzart­works.com

Af­ter a su­perb rookie sea­son, un­drafted de­fen­sive back J.C. Jack­son (27) will get his first taste of post­sea­son foot­ball this af­ter­noon at Gil­lette Stadum.

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