FOXBOROUGH – Jonnu Smith is a glass half-full kind of guy.
The tight end is well-aware of the Patriots 2-4 record, but he isn’t about to dwell on that. Smith preferred to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive Wednesday. His focus is on the future and this week the future is the New York Jets.
“There is an element of urgency that we need to have. We’re just flipping a new page,’’ Smith said. “We’re 2-4, but we know that we’re not a 2-4 team. We just have to continue to come in here with the work mind-set, which we have. We take that approach day in and day out and just try to improve and get better and on Sunday, lay it all out.’’
Smith knows a thing or two about flipping pages. He was a member of the last 2-4 club to make the playoffs – the 2019 Titans, who won 9 of their last 11 games and then knocked off the Patriots and Ravens in the playoffs before falling to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.
If he knows of a magic elixir to turn things around, Smith wasn’t telling. Well, he wasn’t telling reporters.
“I don’t even remember. I’m not in Tennessee anymore,’’ he said, chuckling. “I don’t know. I just know we turned the page, I can’t tell you exactly what that was. With all due respect, I’m not concerned about Tennessee. I’m focused on the New England Patriots and what we’ve got to do.’’
Forgetting and focusing were the buzzwords among the players Wednesday. The page has been flipped and now they’re all on the same one.
“I think one of the things we talked about this week is turning the page and getting on the Jets. There’s nothing we can do about any game that’s been played. That’s in the past,’’ said Devin McCourty. “But we can control what we do next. And it starts day-by-day.’’
McCourty was one of the players who talked after Sunday’s overtime loss to the Cowboys about coming back to the building and working hard. He said that’s exactly what guys have done.
“Like today, getting ahead, and preparing, and being ready. [They Jets are] coming off a bye week. So, they’re going to be well-rested and ready to go. Extra days of studying and preparing for us,’’ he said. “So, we got to try to make up that ground and catch them in a preparation stage and phase of this week. So, I think that’s been the big thing this week. Like, let’s get locked in on the Jets. Let’s be ready to go and not dwell on the past. Whether it be Sunday, or whether it be three Sundays ago. Let’s move on and be ready to go for this week.’’
McCourty has won lots of games and championships in New England. He’s also been through some (but not many) rough stretches and was asked if he sees something in this team that reminds him things will get better. As he has repeated a few times this year, he believes every year is a blank slate. There is no historical carryover. It’s about the here and now.
“I think I’m locked in on what guys did today. Guys came ready to work. Guys came out there with energy. I think that’s the biggest thing,’’ he said. “You can talk about moving forward and being locked in, but it’s kind of your attitude. Not just how you practice, but the energy and everything you brought to practice. And I thought that’s what we did today.’’
McCourty said he could sense it as soon as he arrived. “I think guys came locked in,’’ he said. “And they started in the morning with the preparation, the film study. Going over the scouting report. And then, like Bill [Belichick] always says, the most important thing we do every day is practice. And I thought guys came ready with a good mentality, go out there and practice.’’
After losing a tough game to the Buccaneers, the Patriots came out flat against the Texans before turning things around. Now, on the heels of another heartbreaking loss, this time to the Cowboys, Smith was asked if it’s possible New England is playing to the level of its competition with the 1-4 Jets up next.
He understood that premise, but rejected it.
“I guess it’s easy to fall into that trap,’’ said Smith. “But in this league, I don’t care if a team just won the Super Bowl [or] if a team hasn’t won in prior years, when you step out there on Sunday, you can’t take any team lightly . . . It’s a hard league to win in. So, I think that takes a level of mental toughness, it takes a level of discipline to come in here and treat every opponent the same.’’
Receiver Kendrick Bourne said there’s been an emphasis on closing things out.
“We’re trying to pick it up, of course. Just figure out the little things,’’ he said. “There’s nothing crazy that we don’t know, it’s just a couple plays, little things that we have to work on. Finishing. But definitely a lot of urgency.’’