By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Kony Ealy is best known for his incredible defensive performance for the Panthers in Super Bowl 50, which would have been MVP-caliber had Carolina pulled off the win. Ealy made a strip-sack on Peyton Manning, recorded two other sacks, made four total tackles, and even made a 19-yard interception return. Video game numbers.
But the now-Patriots defensive end doesn’t want to talk about that game. With a fresh start and potentially a major role on the defense in his sights, he’s only looking ahead.
Ealy met with reporters at Gillette Stadium for the first time since offseason workouts began in Foxboro. He’s already sounding like a perfect Patriot just weeks into his stint, doing his best to stay grounded in the present despite the questions asked about his past – and that includes questions about his epic performance in Super Bowl 50.
“That Super Bowl game is over,” said Ealy. “I really don’t like to talk about the past. My job, like I said, is to come here and buy into the system and make the most of my opportunity here, period.”
The Patriots only needed to move down eight spots in the 2017 NFL Draft in order to acquire Ealy, who fell out of favor and had his role reduced in Carolina over the past year. But Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said at the NFL’s Annual Meeting in March that he believes Ealy could fully realize the talent that he flashed at times in 2014 and 2015, on one condition: “Just do things the way coach Belichick wants them done.”
He sure sounds ready to get with the program in New England. When asked if he’s followed any of his teammates’ lead since beginning offseason workouts, he spoke more to the overall program and fitting in with the larger picture.
“[I’m] just buying in and following the team,” said Ealy. “You don’t have one specific guy that leads everybody all the time, but you have guys that do the right thing on and off the field. I just try to fall in line with that and just try to buy into the system here.”
If Ealy can practice what he’s preaching, he could be in line to immediately play a major role in the Patriots’ front-seven. Beyond Trey Flowers, there’s a bit of a question mark on the other end of the defensive line. Geneo Grissom, rookies Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise Jr., and a 32-year-old Rob Ninkovich aren’t exactly the type of players who could easily lock up spots ahead of Ealy on the depth chart.
Still, the 25-year-old Ealy has to earn his role, whatever it becomes. But he’s certainly saying the right things to kick off his Patriots career. If he can do the right things, he could have a chance to reach the dominant form that he flashed in Super Bowl 50.
And dominate is exactly what Ealy said he’s looking to do.
“I just want to dominate whatever position I’m in,” said Ealy. “If you take that approach, good things will happen for you.”
Ealy won’t even have to record three sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery in order to dominate on the Patriots’ defensive front. But if he can even approach that performance for Belichick the coach, he will become yet another win for Belichick the GM.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.