FOXBOROUGH — If he wanted to, there would be plenty to look back proudly on during his rookie season. But defensive end Chandler Jones sounds like he’s only interested in looking straight ahead, at his second year with the Patriots.
“In the situation that I’m in right now, my biggest thing is just to focus on this year, to be honest with you, just win football games,” Jones said on Saturday, after the team’s morning practice behind Gillette Stadium. “I’m excited to tackle my second year, I’m excited to go into this next year with a year of experience, I can be more comfortable doing what I’m doing. I’m ready to go.”
Jones hit the ground running as a rookie after being selected by the Patriots with the 21st pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft. He was the AFC rookie of the month in September, forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in the opener at Tennessee, and had a two-sack game at Seattle in October, part of the six he had on the season.
Despite missing parts of three games with an injury, Jones finished second on the team in sacks, behind Rob Ninkovich’s eight. He’ll be expected to lead the pass-rushing effort again this season. He also vows to be an even better teammate.
“Now that I have a year under my belt in the NFL, my biggest thing is trying to help everyone, try to be that player that helps everyone, make sure everyone’s on the same page, make sure everyone’s got it, just to be that helpful player,” Jones said. “That’s who I want to be.”
There can be a learning curve in the NFL for first-year players, but Jones started from the first week and played at a high level, finishing with 48 tackles and a team-high 12 quarterback hurries. He didn’t have any interceptions, but picked off Tim Tebow on Friday in the opening practice of training camp.
If Jones learned one thing as a rookie, it’s focusing on his job and not paying attention to anyone else.
“Life in the NFL is as I thought it would be, to be honest with you,” Jones said. “I just try to stay level-headed. You’ll go through weeks and you’ll be playing different games. If you play bad, if you play good, you’re never doing as good as people say you’re doing, and you’re never doing as bad as people say you’re doing. So I try to stay level-headed.”