FOXBOROUGH — Most people in this part of the country would welcome a trip to the Caribbean in January.
But if you’re in the NFL and the alternative is playing in the postseason, the vacation can definitely wait.
The majority of Patriots have playoff experience, but three veterans brought in this year — Brandon Lloyd, Aqib Talib, and Trevor Scott — will be part of the NFL’s second season for the first time when New England hosts Houston Sunday in the divisional round.
Lloyd, who is 31 and in his 10th NFL season, has been with six organizations, but before this season, he had never been part of a team that finished better than 9-7.
Before he became a free agent last offseason, Lloyd said he would follow Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, his former head coach in Denver, wherever he went, but the prospect of being part of a perennial playoff participant sweetened the deal.
‘You see the intensity turn up in practice some,meetings turn up, so it definitely feels like a playoff week.’
“It was part of the decision,” Lloyd said. “Ever since I was a kid, the ultimate goal is to play in the Super Bowl, and the only way to get to the Super Bowl is to make it to the playoffs.
“This is a step along the way to the ultimate goal for us. For all the teams that have entered the playoffs, this is just the beginning. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done to get there.”
Lloyd was asked what he’d usually be doing this time of year.
“I’d be at the Sundance Film Festival, on my way to the Bahamas, all kind of different stuff,” he said, laughing.
Unlike Lloyd, Devin McCourty is no stranger to the playoffs. The first-round pick in 2010 has been part of them in all three of his seasons.
With a veteran like Lloyd, McCourty said, there’s no extra motivation needed.
“I think for them, their sense of urgency is there,” McCourty said. “They understand that they’ve played X amount of years in this league. I know a guy like B-Lloyd can’t wait to step on that field and play in the postseason. Usually there isn’t much you have to say to those guys. They’re gamers and they’ll be ready to go.”
Talib was traded to New England Nov. 1 after four-plus seasons in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers won 10 games in 2010, but it wasn’t enough to earn a playoff berth.
The cornerback has noticed a change in the atmosphere around Gillette Stadium over the last several days.
“You see the intensity turn up in practice some, meetings turn up, so it definitely feels like a playoff week,” Talib said.
Talib has helped solidify the Patriots secondary, giving the defense the talented corner it was lacking.
As he gets ready for Sunday, when he’ll likely cover Andre Johnson, Talib was asked about the advice he has received this week.
“Just prepare,” he said. “As much as you prepared for the regular season, just prepare a little bit more for the playoffs. The game is going to speed up a little bit.”
Johnson, who had 1,598 receiving yards this season, had eight catches for 95 yards in the Week 14 matchup against the Patriots.
Scott played the first four seasons of his career in Oakland. In 2008 and ’09, the Raiders posted 5-11 records. They improved to 8-8 in his third and fourth years there.
But like Lloyd, Scott was a free agent last offseason, and found New England appealing in part because of the team’s success.
“It will be my first time going to the playoffs and I’ll definitely be excited,” Scott said. “The Patriots have been a Super Bowl-contending team every year. I came here because of that winning atmosphere and also because I just wanted to play football.”
In part because of injuries and Jermaine Cunningham’s four-game suspension, Scott saw increased playing time over the final month of the season, and responded with three sacks and several quarterback hurries.