BOSTON (CBS) – Monday was what is called a “trash bag day” for the New England Patriots.
They were back in their locker room at Gillette Stadium, some of them for the final time as a New England Patriot. After falling to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game on Sunday, their season is over, and Monday was time for the team to clean out their lockers.
Needless to say, it’s not what the team was hoping they’d be doing when they returned from Denver.
“Any time your season comes to an end, especially in the playoffs, it happens abruptly and it’s not a good feeling,” said safety Steve Gregory. “At the end of the day, at the end of the season there is only going to be one team that’s happy. Every other team is going to go home and wonder what more they could have done to accomplish their goals.”
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But while they came up short of that ultimate goal, the Patriots know they have plenty to be proud of looking back at the 2013 campaign. They overcome numerous injuries to key players on offense and defense to go 12-4 in the regular season, then made it to their third straight AFC title game.
“(I’m proud of) how much we had to overcome to get to where we got this year, coming a few plays away from being in the big game in the next few weeks,” said running back LaGarrette Blount, who tasted postseason action for the first time in his NFL career. “The hard, tough-nosed ability that this whole team has. A lot of the guys were underdogs, not first round guys or undrafted guys, stepping up and doing things people didn’t expect them to do.”
“We should be proud of what we’ve done,” safety Devin McCourty said. “A lot of young guys stepped up; we had guys go down at key positions and guys were thrown into roles I don’t think they were prepared. But they stepped up and did whatever they had to do each week to make sure we had a chance, and we ended up winning a lot of games that way. I’m really proud of the guys. I think that’s a building block moving forward.”
“By no means was it a bad season,” said Gregory. “We made it to the AFC Championship, played a great team in the Denver Broncos and yesterday they were a little bit better than we were. At the end of the day we can hold our heads high. We played a heck of a year and the guys fought hard. We just have to learn from it, move on and get ready for next year.”
Bill Belichick stressed how proud he was of his team following Sunday’s lost, and reiterated the fact on Monday.
“We played very competitively all year; we just came up short five times,” he said. “I wish we could have done a little better job in any of those games, especially the one yesterday. That was our season. I’m proud of what our players did and our team did, but we came up short and that’s not our goal.”
“We’re going to continue to try to work toward a higher level of performance, starting with me and our coaching staff and our players and we’re starting all over again,” added Belichick. “That’s where we are. We’re in 2014 now.”
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Belichick said the process of assessing their own free agents will begin soon, followed by preparing for free agency and the NFL draft.
He wouldn’t say if he’d watch the Super Bowl in two weeks, but that he would likely see it at some point given his Patriots will face the Broncos again in 2014.
But don’t worry about the Patriots head coach. He’ll find someway to blow off any disappointment left over from the AFC Championship loss.
“I’ll be OK. I’ll take all my frustrations out at Pebble Beach – see if I can hit the ball over the water instead of into it for a change,” he joked.