The safety, going into his sixth year, said it was lacking last year. And so the idea in the offseason program is for some of the younger guys to emerge and grow into the roles so long taken by guys like Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison and Richard Seymour on defense.
“You can tell over the last year or two, our chemistry hasn’t been as good as it has been in years past, and that’s something that we’re working on,” Sanders said. “We’re working on it from now until passing camp, minicamp and, ultimately, training camp and into the season.
“Just coming together as a team, and as a group in all three phases, it starts now – Working hard, conditioning, and the guys who push each other when they’re dead tired are the guys you’ll be counting on when it gets rough in close games.”
It was hard not to see how seriously Sanders is taking this. With all the young guys coming in, he’s one of the guys that’s a link to the past.
And so he knows the effect that losing all the aforementioned players so quickly had.
“It’s tough, when you lose a lot of leaders of that caliber – Vrabel, Bruschi, Rodney,” Sanders said. “That’s a lot to handle. Guys have to step up. Vince Wilfork, myself, Ty Warren, Brandon Meriweather.
“We have guys who are capable, we just have to do it now and bring the rest of the team along and mesh as a group. Randy (Moss), Tom (Brady), we got a lot of great leaders and we all just have to step up, do our part and take our team where we want to be.”
The good news, Sanders says, is that there are guys who have what it takes. Now, it’ll be a matter of stepping forward.
“We have a lot of humble guys who want to work hard, but we just gotta show them it has to be on a consistent basis, each and every day,” Sanders said. “You can’t have the roller-coaster ups and downs, because if you have that kind of attitude, it reflects in your play on the field.
“You can play great one week or even one quarter, next quarter be up, fourth quarter be down. We can’t have that. We lost too many close games last year. There are two or three off the top of my head I can name that we lost, especially being ahead, where we were inconsistent. We gotta change that this year.”
This, in my opinion, is a pretty big theme this offseason — redirecting the team and correcting what went wrong. We won’t see the results, of course, for some time.
But it’s pretty interesting to see that the work in such an intangible area being worked on at such an early juncture.