Getting all the way to the AFC Championship game and coming up short obviously has to be frustrating for a Patriots team who already enjoyed the taste of a Super Bowl just over a year ago.
As Bill Belichick likes to say, losses like that are tough because the treadmill suddenly comes to a stop, abruptly ending the journey before they were able to reach their final destination. All the hard work, the preparation, everything that goes into an NFL season, just like that, is over, concluding a season where their ultimate goal wasn’t achieved. It leads to an offseason full of reflection, with another stretch of months to tinker with a roster where the only constant is change as they try to add players who can help them when they step back on that same treadmill in July and put the pads back on, only to do it all over again.
Sebastian Vollmer has been around for a while now, having joined the Patriots back in 2009 when New England selected him in the second round with the 58th overall pick. He knows what it’s like to come up just short of reaching the top of the NFL mountain. Having also finally won a title two seasons ago, he’s seen also seen that side of it. But Vollmer knows that no matter how it ends, the same amount of effort still needs to go into it and the experience leads to a lot of reserved emotion, which was apparent as he spoke to reporters on Tuesday. Losing in January doesn’t give him any extra motivation. Winning a Super Bowl is what they’re always trying to do here, so right now he’s just ready to get to work.
“It’s a new year. I don’t think we need extra motivation for anything,” said Vollmer. “I think you come out here and try to better yourself as a player, as a team, as a group, all of that stuff, and putting in these hours and working towards a common goal. Now it’s getting ready for OTA’s next week and then we have training camp coming up so it’s a long road ahead but we’re just doing what we’re told to do and really grinding it out right now.”
He’s coming off a frustrating season, one that was riddled with injuries that began with a concussion he suffered in November, and later included the scary sight of seeing him carted off the field with an ankle injury against the Jets the week before the season finale.
Vollmer endured a scare right before the end of the season, but came back in the playoffs.
Fortunately he avoided serious injury and was able to return for the playoffs. He was asked if he did anything different in preparation for this season, with Vollmer saying he just tried to improve on some things while following the protocol in place.
“I don’t know if it’s different. Obviously, you’re kind of told what to do. But I think you learn from year to year,” explained Vollmer. “If it’s extra stretching, conditioning, whatever it is you kind of experience what you need, what gets you ready and I think you learn from season to season, ‘I was in great shape’, or, ‘I wasn’t in good shape’, or whatever it was and I think you try and take the good things and try to eliminate the bad things.”
Much of the talk this offseason has centered on the return of Dante Scarnecchia to coaching the offensive line, who Vollmer admitted “gets the best out of you.” However, the struggles by their unit last season saw a year where they really couldn’t run the football as the injuries piled up, and ended with a disastrous finish in Denver where Tom Brady got hammered to the tune of 17 quarterback hits and 4 sacks. That QB hit number dropped slightly after coming out at a staggering 20 initially, but the league has since done as they often do and adjusted the numbers following post-game reviews.
But either way, it was obviously a key reason they lost that game and something that was likely part of a long discussion at some point by the coaching staff and front office. So much so that it clearly resulted in the unusual move of a Patriots coach losing their job, with Dave Duglielmo coming out on the wrong end of things as New England decided a change in direction was needed.
Those things are now in the past and Vollmer has no regrets. Right now it’s May and it’s the start of the road that leads to a new season ahead. So at this point, like his teammates, he’s just back at it trying to get ready to have success in 2016.
“I think every team has the same goal in mind, especially in this phase now. If ultimately your season comes to a crashing end it’s never a good feeling,” said Vollmer. “I think you do a lot of self-evaluations of things you could have done better and like I said earlier, the following year you’re trying to implement the good things and really cut out the bad things.”
“I don’t question anybody’s effort. I think we all gave whatever we could and in the end it wasn’t good enough. It’s onto a new year for us now.”
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Tags: 2016 NFL Season New England Patriots Sebastian Vollmer