Monday, June 05, 2017

Trey Flowers not resting on laurels after breakout Super Bowl campaign

New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers reacts after a sack against the Denver Broncos during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Denver on Sunday, December 18, 2016. Staff Photo by Nancy Lane

By Jeff Howe

June 4, 2017

There’s no chilling Trey Flowers’ desire.

With 2.5 sacks in Super Bowl LI, including a monumental takedown of Matt Ryan when the Patriots dug in their heels to prevent a clinching Falcons field goal, Flowers was the most disruptive defensive player in the game.

The performance punctuated Flowers’ ascension to prominence in 2016,
but he has been too hard on himself to care. Flowers has a mountain to climb, and he doesn’t believe he is anywhere near the peak because of one strong season or a few big plays on the NFL’s greatest stage.

“I don’t look too highly on it because last year was last year,” Flowers said. “The last game was the last game. I could look at that game, and there’s a lot of plays that I missed, a lot of opportunities that I missed that I should have had. That’s just all about staying hungry. Having the Super Bowl that I had in the biggest game of my career, understand while watching the film, ‘You did all right, but you could have done better.’

“I’ve got that mentality coming into the season. Any opportunity I’ve got, I want to improve on being more productive. This will be my first time coming in and being able to produce at a high level. Being able to understand my role; I know my role now. Being able to live in that role, I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to stay hungry.”

If Flowers becomes a household name in 2017, his attitude will be a major reason for it. The Patriots defensive lineman is tirelessly driven to be great to the point that he got restless this offseason when he was simply trying to rest.

He instead opted to do yoga, core work, conditioning or anything else to remain in a routine. And that was during his downtime.

“The thing about me, I don’t feel too comfortable when I’m not working out,” Flowers said with an obsessive smirk last week, shortly after he was one of the final players to leave the field for the Patriots’ voluntary workout at Gillette Stadium.

Flowers didn’t get caught up in the Super Bowl LI afterglow. He instead opted to strengthen certain muscles that didn’t meet his standards. He also pored through his game film to assess his assortment of moves and counters, as well as the ways offensive linemen were blocking him.

For instance, if Flowers lined up a certain way, did it telegraph his ensuing move? If so, he plans to use that to his advantage in 2017 because he is working on a series of counter moves to attack offenses. Flowers led the Patriots last season with seven sacks, all of which came in the final nine games, so he is smart enough to recognize the likelihood that teams will game plan for him in 2017.

“Coming off of last year, I know a lot of guys are going to start looking at me now,” Flowers said. “A year ago, they probably weren’t paying much attention to me. They’re going to start studying me, game-planning me, and I watch film trying to see how I can counter off a move that they might be expecting. You’ve got to deal with it if they’re going to game plan for you, if they’re going to double team you. You’ve still got to remain productive, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m hard on myself.”

To avoid complacency, even if it’s subconscious, Flowers is comparing his work ethic to last offseason. The way he looks at it, if he can compete against himself, he won’t get caught in the trap of being happy that he’s a Super Bowl champion coming off his best season.

Plus, Flowers knows his workouts should be more intense this offseason. A year ago, he was recovering from his December 2015 shoulder surgery, which still slightly impacted his effectiveness in 2016 because he couldn’t max out his upper-body strength. He said his shoulder is as strong right now as it’s been in years.

Flowers’ breakout season was impressive beyond the sack total, too. He led the Patriots in quarterback hits through Week 7 before he ever registered a sack, so he knew he was close. Flowers decided to switch up his pregame routine to get his feet “fired up” in time for kickoff. And he stayed even later after practice, which had already been his reputation anyway.

“I definitely saw improvement, and it was assessed to hard work and having the opportunity,” Flowers said.

Just think, Flowers was dominant through stretches in 2016, and he now feels stronger, smarter, more polished and self-aware of his tendencies. He hinted that he might have surpassed his own expectations last season, but his goals far exceed one good campaign, if that wasn’t already obvious.

“I had confidence in myself coming in,” said the 2015 fourth-round draft pick. “I knew I was going to be able to produce, maybe not as much as I did as early as I did. But I knew it was just a matter of time because it’s one of those things you work hard for, you push for. If you’ve got the faith and you believe in your work, you believe in your craft, you invest all the time and work into it, eventually you’re going to see the fruits of your labor. I was definitely expecting to be known, but that was last year.

“I had a decent season last year, but that’s not the mark, not the only thing I want to be remembered as. You always want to improve. You can never stay the same. A lot of guys in this league are out there working either coming for your spot or trying to stop you, so you’ve definitely got to improve because once you stay the same, somebody else will pass you.”

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