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Pats introduce (sort of) top draft pick Collins - The Sun Chronicle : Patriots

Pats introduce (sort of) top draft pick Collins

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Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 12:45 am

FOXBORO - So, the Patriots' media relations staff brought Jamie Collins onto the field Thursday to accept the ceremonial No. 1 jersey from Robert and Jonathan Kraft, signifying his status as the first player selected by the team in the NFL Draft.

Problem is, Patriots' coach Bill Belichick didn't let him talk. He's a second-round pick and a rookie, and that's two strikes with the third already on its way to the plate in Belichick's eyes.

So while the assembled media will have to wait until later today to meet the pass-rushing linebacker from Southern Mississippi, as well the rest of the rookie class as they participate in the first minicamp of the year, at least someone was willing to talk pleasantly about the newcomer.

"I just met Jamie a few seconds ago," said second-year veteran Chandler Jones. "I said, 'good luck with the media and everything.' He's a cool guy."

It was last April 26 when Jones got his own ceremonial jersey from the Krafts as the 21st overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft. The defensive end from Syracuse went on to have a solid rookie year for the Patriots, and now he's in the position to understand one of the fundamental differences between his college career and the present.

"There really isn't an offseason," Jones said. "Even though you try to unplug from the game and get your mind off of it, you're always thinking about what you could have done on that play or in that game. Physically, there's definitely a rest factor. But as far as mentally, you're always thinking about football. That's your job."

There's already the opportunity for Jones to do some mentoring of Collins, the 52nd overall selection, even though the rookie experience isn't that far back in his rear-view mirror.

"Definitely," Jones said. "I feel like it's all fresh in my mind because it's like it just happened. Every question that he has is probably typical of what I had. I'm going to definitely share that with him."

The Patriots added depth in their front seven with the drafting of Collins and linebackers Michael Buchanan of Illinois and Steve Beauharnais of Rutgers. They also added depth in the running back corps when they traded kick returner Jeff Demps to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in return for veteran LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in his rookie season but tailed off considerably in the last two.

Steven Ridley, who rushed for 1,263 yards in just his second NFL season, said Thursday that he welcomes the challenge.

"The job is not going to be given to anybody," Ridley said. "You have to work to get it. With four of us in here, I think all of us can contribute."

Ridley is joined by holdovers Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden in the Patriots' backfield. Blount fills the space, if not the same specifications, created by Danny Woodhead's free-agency departure to San Diego.

"You're looking at a guy that's 260 pounds, a powerful runner," Ridley said prior to the jersey ceremony. "He's coming in here to a stable of backs. We just had lunch, talked a little bit. We're excited about it."

Ridley and Jones were both banged up at the end of last season, Ridley suffering the after-effects of a concussion that knocked him out of the AFC Championship Game, and Jones a sore ankle that limited his effectiveness late in the season.

Both said Thursday that they were fine.

"It was a nice hit that I took, but you just have to shake it off," Ridley said of the bone-chilling hit he took from a famed Patriot killer, Bernard Pollard. "It comes with the game. Sometimes it's to others and sometimes it's to ourselves. But either way, I love the game. I love football. It's going to happen sometimes. You just have to roll with it."

Jones said he was planning to train with his brother, ultimate fighter Jonny "Bones" Jones, but those plans were sidetracked when the latter suffered a compound toe fracture. Instead, he has participated in some mixed martial arts training with teammate Brandon Deaderick and he hopes that has given him a head start for what is to follow shortly.

"It's time to get ready for the real thing, and I'm getting excited," Jones said.

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