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Patriots’ Ricky Jean Francois a true ‘franchise player’

BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF

Patriots defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois was released by the Packers No. 1.

By Globe Staff 

FOXBOROUGH — Like a lot of people in New England, Ricky Jean Francois is a big fan of Rob Gronkowski.

“I love him, because he got business booming,’’ Jean Francois said of his new teammate, who doubles as a Dunkin’ Donuts pitchman. You see, Jean Francois owns 30 Dunkin’ franchises up and down I-95, from Savannah, Ga., to Hilton Head, S.C.

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“Every time I look at that commercial I smile now,’’ said the defensive tackle the Patriots signed on Tuesday. “Every time I see Gronk, [I think,] he’s making us a whole lot of money this year just seeing his pretty face.’’

Not only is New England Dunkin’ Donuts country, it’s also the latest stop on Jean Francois’s NFL tour. He’s previously been in San Francisco, Indianapolis, Washington, and Green Bay.

“As soon as I got off that airplane it was like every block I hit I saw a Dunkin’ Donuts and I said, ‘I must be in Dunkin’ Donut heaven up here,’ ’’ Jean Francois said.

The nine-year veteran got into the doughnut business back in 2014 after some older players told him you “can’t play this game forever.’’ So he went all-in to have something to provide for his family when his playing days are over.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 313-pounder said he wasn’t so much surprised to get a call from the Patriots as he was happy. The Packers released him on Nov. 1.

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“I was just chilling, packing all my stuff up, leaving Green Bay and going home, and I got the call I was like, ‘Time to come up here and learn a new playbook,’ ’’ he said.

He’s been in a constant cram session with that book and has leaned on veterans Alan Branch and Lawrence Guy to help him get up to speed.

“I’ve been learning from them,’’ Jean Francois said. “Just trying to get things a little easier, because each team is a little different learning the terminology. It’s almost like, you know English, but somebody’s telling you French, and now you’ve got to learn French.’’

He said putting in the extra work now will pay off when his number is called.

“The biggest thing now is I just got to learn that playbook. That’s the biggest thing, because anything can happen. They can throw me in the fire and if I don’t know that playbook, I don’t want to mess up something that they already have going. The playbook is my best friend right now. That’s my wife, my girlfriend, that’s my everything.’’

Jean Francois, who said fans can expect a “hard-working” player, has 115 games under his belt with 236 tackles and 12 sacks. He’s also suited up for 11 playoff games with 17 tackles and 1½ sacks.

He’s looking forward to the team’s upcoming nine-day trip to Colorado and Mexico for the chance to play some football, bond with his teammates, and of course talk doughnuts.

“I get to learn my teammates and I get to sit down and talk with the guys — I know some guys want to talk to me about Dunkin’ Donuts and how I first got started,’’ he said. “So, it’s going to be an interesting trip. They get to pick my mind and I get to pick theirs. They may have strategies to help me get business booming more.’’

Practice report

Receiver Chris Hogan (shoulder), right tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle), and defensive tackle Malcom Brown (ankle) missed their third straight practice Thursday, making it highly unlikely the trio will play Sunday in Denver.

The session was just a walkthrough and the squad will hold one more workout Friday before leaving for Colorado later in the day.

Receiver Danny Amendola (knee), cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (concussion/ankle) and Eric Rowe (groin), and defensive end Cassius Marsh (shoulder) were limited.

Fabiano signed

The Patriots signed former Harvard offensive lineman Anthony Fabiano, a Wakefield native, to the practice squad, taking the spot of receiver Jake Kumerow, who was released. Fabiano (6-1, 303 pounds) originally signed with the Ravens as an undrafted rookie in 2016 but was released at the end of camp. He spent most of last year with the Browns’ practice squad before being activated for the final four games. He was released by the Browns this summer and has spent time on the Redskins’ and Giants’ practice squads . . . Safety Devin McCourty had a pretty simple explanation about why it’s so tough to play in Denver — and it had nothing to do with the altitude. “Since I’ve been here, they’ve just been a really good football team,’’ he said. “I think it’s the same thing for teams that have to come here to play. The crowd helps, the weather helps, but I mean, if the football team’s not good, it’s not really going to matter. I think that’s the biggest thing. When we go out there, [the Broncos] are always a competitive team.’’


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.