January 12, 2013

How Lloyd and other Patriots longed for postseason

This will be the first playoff game for the veteran receiver and several other key Patriots.

By HOWARD ULMAN The Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Across nine years and five teams, Brandon Lloyd never played in the postseason.

PATS IN THE PLAYOFFS

WHO: Patriots vs. Houston Texans

WHEN: 4:30 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Gillette Stadium

TELEVISION: CBS

Now, in his 10th season, his wait is finally over.

Lloyd is excited for his playoff debut on Sunday in New England's divisional round game against the Houston Texans. Cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end Trevor Scott also are looking forward to theirs after four non-playoff years each.

Since he was "a kid, the ultimate goal is to play in the Super Bowl and the only way to get to the Super Bowl is to make it to the playoffs," Lloyd said. "This is a step along the way to the ultimate goal for all of us. For all the teams that have entered the playoffs, this is just the beginning."

The Patriots wide receiver was with the Washington Redskins when they got there in 2007 but missed the last eight regular-season games and a wild-card loss with a shoulder injury.

But he made a smart decision this offseason. The likelihood of making the playoffs with the Patriots contributed to his choice of signing as a free agent. There was a good chance that a team that had reached the postseason in nine of the past 11 years would get there again.

The San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams never got that far while Lloyd was there. So he had little interest in watching the playoffs while on vacation all those years.

"If it was on the television in the hotel lobby or something" he might take a peek, he said.

Lloyd, Scott and Talib all are eager for their first playoff action, hoping it will end with a trip to the Super Bowl in New Orleans on Feb. 3.

"Their sense of urgency is there," said defensive back Devin McCourty, in the playoffs for the third time in his three NFL seasons. "They understand that they've played 'X' amount of years in this league. I know a guy like B-Lloyd can't wait to step on that field and play in the postseason. Usually there isn't much you have to say to those guys. They're gamers and they'll be ready to go."

Scott spent his first four seasons with the Oakland Raiders and never even had a winning record. He's contributed this season as a backup with three sacks in the past five games.

"It's pretty different. I'm definitely excited," he said. "I'm just happy to be where I am now."

Scott chose to sign with the Patriots as a free agent last March.

Talib had no choice. They acquired him on Nov. 1 in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he played his first game for the Patriots on Nov. 11 after completing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances.

"I never got a chance to participate in the postseason," he said. "First chance, I'm definitely looking forward to it."

He expects the intensity to be heightened but his nervousness to be minimal.

"I've never been in the postseason but I'm not a rookie," Talib said. "So once we get out there and the game starts, it's still football."

Daniel Fells has some sense of what the playoff newcomers are feeling. He was one of them until last season, his sixth as a pro, when the Denver Broncos made it.

"Being in a situation where you hadn't made the playoffs, you kind of felt empty at the end of the year," the backup tight end said. "You get a little bit of fulfillment finally making the playoffs, (but) ultimately there's a bigger goal in mind. You have the excitement going into it but you've still got to keep your eyes on the prize."

His Super Bowl hopes ended last season on the field where he now plays his home games. The Patriots beat the Broncos 45-10 in the divisional round.

"Pretty ironic, right?" Fells said. "I did think about that a little bit when the phone call came. 'Oh, yeah, this is the team that knocked us off,'" he said.

"But I'm happy to be here."

Fells was inactive for all 16 games as an undrafted rookie with the Atlanta Falcons in 2006 then was on the practice squads of the Raiders in 2007 and Buccaneers in 2008.

He finally played in 2009 when he caught seven passes with St. Louis then totaled 62 over the next two years with the Rams.

But he had started only 11 games in his three seasons with St. Louis.

"It was an all-around situation for me going to Denver and being the starter out there as well as making the playoffs," Fells said.

"So I was able to check a couple of things off my list, but there's one big box that still needs to be filled."

Belichick has filled that box three times, leading the Patriots to Super Bowl victories in 2002, 2004 and 2005.

"He's a great teacher," Lloyd said. "The way that he teaches the game, it's almost like I'm not being coached, I'm actually being taught. That's been the part of this experience that has stuck out the most to me."

Lloyd caught 74 passes for 911 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games. On Sunday, he'll play a 17th for the first time after all those years of finding something else to do.

"I'd be at the Sundance Film Festival, on my way to the Bahamas, all kind of different stuff," Lloyd said with a laugh.

But a win on Sunday would keep him -- and the Patriots -- on the road to New Orleans.

NOTES: The Patriots listed five players on Friday's practice report -- Scott, tight end Rob Gronkowski, cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard and Marquice Cole and offensive lineman Nick McDonald. All participated fully in practice and were listed as probable. They removed 15 players who had been on Thursday's report. ... Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-50s Sunday.

 

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