Monday, January 22, 2018

Huntsville's Trey Flowers 'one of the most respected guys' in New England Patriots' locker room

January 20, 2018
By Mark Inabinett

The defensive ends that helped New England win last year's Super Bowl were a different group than those seeking on Sunday to return to the NFL championship game.

Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard left in free agency and Rob Ninkovich retired, leaving Trey Flowers, in his third NFL season, as the "old man" among New England's defensive ends.

But it's Flowers' work ethic, not his slight edge in NFL experience, that has made the former Columbia High School All-State lineman a leader on New England's defense.

"To me, Trey is always a guy that he's always going to lead by example," Patriots safety Devin McCourty told reporters this week.
"If you guys talk to Trey, you can see he doesn't talk a lot. He's not a man of many words. But he's usually the first guy in here and one of the last guys to leave, in the facility putting in the work.

"And then I think that the thing I see from him is now when he feels like it's time to say something and he wants to say something, it usually makes a big impact on the team because guys know his work ethic. They know how much he cares about playing well individually and the success of the team. When he speaks, guys tend to listen."

The first two lines of New England's depth chart at defensive end include Flowers and three first-year players - Adam Butler, Eric Lee and Deatrich Wise.

Like Flowers, Wise joined the Patriots as a fourth-round draft choice from Arkansas. Butler made the team as an undrafted rookie from Vanderbilt. Like Flowers, Lee is a former Alabama prep standout. The ex-Daphne Trojan joined New England 10 games into the season, signed from the Buffalo Bills' practice squad.

"Trey does a great job for us on the field and off the field," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "He's a very hard worker. One of the first guys in, last to leave. He puts in a lot of extra time. I think his example of working hard, learning the game plan -- he has certainly learned a lot or had to do a lot of things here that he didn't have to do in college assignment-wise. He's embraced those and tried to do what's best for the team that we need him to do.

"I think that attitude has carried over to some of the other players who see that and take his example as an example of leadership and doing what's best for the team. Trey is a great teammate, one of the most respected guys in the locker room. The example that he sets throughout the day from the time he gets here until the moment he leaves is always positive."

Flowers downplays his leadership role.

"I know I understand the defense more than the majority of the people on the defensive line," Flowers said, "so any time a player comes to me and asks for a little more clarification, I just give them some advice."

Injuries limited Flowers to one game in his first NFL season. In his second, he led the Patriots with seven sacks in the 2016 regular season and recorded 2.5 sacks in New England's 34-28 overtime victory against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

Although he missed two games with injuries, Flowers again topped the Patriots in sacks with 6.5 during the 2017 regular season. He got another in New England's 35-14 playoff victory over the Tennessee Titans last week.

The Patriots will play the Jacksonville Jaguars at 2:05 p.m. CST Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, for the AFC's spot in Super Bowl LII. CBS will televise the contest.

"We're expecting them to play their hardest," Flowers said. "You're talking about the AFC championship game, so we expect them to come to play and we've got to prepare well for them. That's a great team that has done a lot of great things throughout the year. We're just preparing for them and hope to get a win."

Stopping the Jaguars will be about more than pressuring the passer for New England's defensive ends. Jacksonville led the NFL in rushing attempts and rushing yards during the regular season after selecting LSU running back Leonard Fournette with the fourth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Fournette ran for 1,040 yards in 13 games and had 109 in a 45-42 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, despite missing part of the first half because of an ankle injury.

"He's definitely a physical player," Flowers said of Fournette. "He's physical, he's got a lot of size on him, but he also is fast. That's very rare in this league to have a big back that can run away from you. So he's physical and I think he's a lot shiftier than people may (think). He's got a good spin move on him, so it's going to be a tough guy to tackle, and we've just got to, like I said, play with fundamentals, knock the line of scrimmage back, make them uncomfortable and get a lot of guys to the ball."

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