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Exclusive Interview: Chandler Jones

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chandlerA rookie starter for the New England Patriots, under a coach well known for not starting rookies, Chandler has had the benefit of two older brothers, who are also professional athletes, to help guide his decisions and avoid common mistakes. As a first round draft pick, expectations have always been high for Chandler. From his productivity and contribution, Chandler has exceeded them all, even while playing against his brother Art twice in the same season.

LR: Art has a Super Bowl ring, Jon has a title now. What are you going to do to top that?

Chandler: We have time to see. I was always saying in other interviews that I was the first-round draft pick, Jon was the light heavyweight champion of the world and Art is a Super Bowl champion. It’s a blessing for all three of us to be blood brothers. It’s exciting.

I’m sure you were pretty proud of Art when he got the Super Bowl victory. Were you a little jealous?

I wasn’t jealous, I was proud. There were a lot of great moments. I was at the post-game party, hanging out with the Ravens. We played them to get to the Super Bowl, and they beat us, so it was a little awkward being there with the head coach and the whole Raven’s staff. It was bittersweet but congratulatory.

Were some of the offensive linemen from the Ravens looking at you with empathy?

One of them, I think it was Marshal Yanda, came up to me and said, “Good season. You’re a great player.” I have a lot of respect for him and that’s huge because, he’s been in the NFL for a while. For him to come up to a rookie and say that, it meant a lot to me.

What was it like facing your brother in the AFC championship game?

It was strange. I didn’t play because I re-injured my ankle, but I thought I was going to play until seconds before the game. Just looking across the field and seeing my brother’s face and seeing him warm up was like a dream come true. Not just because we’re both in the NFL, but now we’re both in position to make it to the Super Bowl.

That’s amazing. Do you talk much during the season?

We talk a lot. We’re very competitive. I call him after all his games. He wants to know my stats. He says, “How many tackles did you have? How many sacks did you have?” It’s very competitive. We always compare stats at the end of each week.

When you were racking up stats earlier in the season, did you gloat?

Not at all. Playing for the Patriots—Bill Belichick, he says things like, “You’re not doing as good as you think you are, but you’re not doing as bad as you think you are.” So I try to just stay humble and level headed—maybe I’ll brag one or two times, but not too much.

Did you talk much before the AFC championship game?

We did. Throughout my rookie year, he called me every day after practice and before practice—even in training camp, to see how I was mentally and physically. He was my mentor, even though he was on the rival team. That week, for some reason, we didn’t talk a lot. I was injured. He came up to me and asked, “How’s your ankle? Are you going to play?”

One of the cardinal rules of parenting is not to play favorites, but when you and Art play against each other, who do your parents root for?

That’s a funny question. I get asked that a lot. My mother thought that the Ravens should win the Super Bowl. “Art has been in the NFL for 3 or 4 years,” mom said, “You’ll get your chance—you’re still a rookie.” I was telling her my mind doesn’t work like that. The better team wins and they won. Congratulations to the Ravens.

What was your favorite team growing up?

The Jacksonville Jaguars. Because of the colors—my favorite colors are black and turquoise. I was a fan of coach Del Rio as well. I thought he was great and I’ve been a fan since. Now I’m the biggest New England Patriots fan.

What was it like to play against them?

It was crazy. One of my good friends plays on their team. I was joking around—I said, “I just want to touch your guys’ jersey.” He knew I was a Jaguars fan. We went down to Jacksonville and beat them. It was a tight game, but we came out on top.

You played in Syracuse and your coach, Doug Marrone is now the coach of the Buffalo Bills. What’s it going to be like seeing him on the other sideline?

Coach Marrone is a good coach. He’s a great coach. I’m very excited for him. It might be a little weird. We get to play them twice a year—they’re in our conference. He was a good coach and it’s an exciting feeling. I’m happy for him. It’s going to be very exciting. He was my head coach for the four years that I played at Syracuse. I’m very happy for him. We get to play those guys two times a year in our conference. Hopefully, we can get the win. Congratulations to him as well.

You were on ESPN a a while back at the Syracuse/Providence basketball game. What do you think about Syracuse leaving the Big East for the ACC?

It should be interesting. A lot more compensation and recruiting should be a lot more fun. Syracuse is a great basketball school. They’ll be good in the ACC.

What have you learned from coach Bill Belichick?

I learned a lot, especially about being a player off the field. I learned player skills through development meetings and how to do certain things, take care of business. It’s not always football, it’s not always on the field when it comes to Bill Belichick.

He seems pretty gruff and stoic. Is he like that in person?

I get that question a lot. I feel like Bill Belichick is the same exact person that you see on TV. He keeps to himself: he’s quiet. The longest conversation I had with him was about 30 seconds.

When you got drafted by the Patriots, who have at least a 10-year streak of excellence, did you feel extra pressure going to a team like that?

I’m not going to lie. I did feel a lot of pressure. As a rookie going into the NFL, a lot of people say, “Don’t read mock drafts or don’t think about being a bust. Don’t worry about what other people say.” It’s easy to say, hard to do. As soon as I was the first pick of the New England Patriots, one of the top competing teams in NFL history, the first thing that I thought was, “I’m the first round draft pick and I’ve got to do good. I’ve got to lead the team with sacks and I’ve got to be the shining player.” If you get caught in that, you never succeed. Those player development meetings teach me to calm down. Just do what you’re dodoing in college and you should be fine.

Do you ever feel yourself getting caught up in what people are saying?

I’m going to be completely honest; sometimes I’ll read something or someone will send me a link and I’ll click it. There will be someone bashing me about what I did that past week, but, at the end of the day, they’re the fans and I’m just trying to do my job.

Were you surprised that you got started right away as a rookie?

I was surprised. There’s a lot of history. I said, “Bill Belichick, he doesn’t play rookies and he doesn’t start rookies.” When I went out there and they placed me behind Trevor Scott—he was a free agent at the time—they asked if I want to earn my way to a starting position. By the end of camp, things came around and by the first game, I was starting.

Didn’t Dont’a Hightower also start as a rookie?

Yeah, for sure. We were both selected in the first round. We were kind of like brothers then. For us to both be new in the Patriots, Dont’a Hightower was at one of the best colleges and he won a championship there.

When did you stop feeling like a rookie?

Toward mid-season. After I got banged up and I was trying to recover and get back out there so I could play again. That’s when I thought, “You know what, I’m not a rookie any more. I’ve got to be tough enough to do what I’ve got to do.”

When did the rest of your teammates stop treating you like a rookie?

After preseason, to be honest with you. They were saying, “You were a rookie in pre-season. There’s lots of plays to learn, there’s a lot more to do.” When we got to the season, a lot of the players like Vince Wilfork and Tom Brady, were like, “Hey Chandler, this is the real deal now. You’re not a rookie any more and we’re going to treat you like a veteran.”

What was it like the first time you bumped into Tom Brady?

It was funny. It was very interesting. Everyone called me “Rookie,” me being the rookie and a first-round pick. They tried to make me do a little hazing. Everyone calls me Rook. “Hey, Rook. Do this, Rook. Do that, Rook.” Someone tapped me on the shoulder my second day and said, “Chandler, it’s a pleasure having you on the team” I turn around and it’s Tom Brady. I was, like, “Wow this is crazy.“ Every now and then I sit in the locker room thinking, “You know what, that’s Tom Brady in my locker room.” It’s an honor to be on the same roster as a guy like that. It’s an exciting feeling.

Besides your own teammates, who’s the toughest player you’ve played against?

His name is Duane Brown., the left tackle for the Houston Texans. He was in the Pro Bowl this year. He’s a great player. He’s good at switching it up. For someone like him you have to study hard and prepare.

What have you learned from your brothers?

As far as the work ethic, as the younger brother I see my brothers work so hard. Seeing the reward makes me want to do the same exact thing. Watching their off-season training, even during practice when I was just being a fan of the team that they played for—there was still work ethic. I learned that if you work hard in the off-season, you grind out and shine a little.

Were you more nervous before Jon’s fights than you were for Art being in the Super Bowl?

For sure. Football is totally different. You go out on the field and you’ve got 11 players. You’ve got yourself and 10 other players around you. [In the ring], you’re on that canvas on a hot day with one person. All the weight is on your shoulders. When I’m sitting there at his fights in the front row, all the lights turn off. It’s time for the main event. It gets very very nerve wracking. You do have to be there to feel it.

You were hampered by ankle injuries late in the season. What are you doing to try to avoid that problem this coming season?

I’m doing a lot of rehab, right now. Obviously, I’m not 100 percent, but I’m right around 100 percent. Right now I’m working on my upper body strength. I feel like those injuries came from having a lack of upper body strength.

Was it a leverage thing?

Yeah. I was collapsing a little bit and that weight was going to my lower body. Just boxing and shooting my hands and getting my hands on my target first will help. Actually, I’m sure it will help.

As a professional athlete, you have to stay in tip-top ship all the time. What advice would you give to parents to get their kids off to college, get them out and doing something?

Just take the TV. If I was a parent, I would take the TV or I would take control of their items so the kids have no choice but to go outside. It’s 2013, there’s a lot of technology. There’s a Wii [game] where you’re standing up and twirling around, just to try to get the kids to motor more in the house. There’s nothing like exercise. As a professional athlete, my body’s my job. I don’t get paid unless my body is in tip-top shape. Even though I’m out here doing business, I find time to run and I get some cardio done on the treadmill.

Twitter seems to be very popular for you. How do you keep it clean, and how do you keep yourself from saying something that you regret later?

That’s another thing I learned from my brother Jon and my brother Arthur. I’ve been following them since I got to it. And, I realize that they never swear over social media, and they don’t retweet anyone that swears. They both have a tremendous amount of followers. You don’t know who’s watching or who’s following you. You have to remember the crowd that’s following you and that you’ll need endorsements later in your career. Twitter is like living in a fishbowl.

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