Two days after seeing the season ended in Buffalo, Patriots players held one final virtual media availability to wrap up the 2021 season.
"I feel like we opened a lot of eyes and a lot of people want us to fail and expect us to fail and we proved a lot of doubters wrong, even though we didn't end the season the way we wanted to," said Adrian Phillips.
"We all still have a bad taste in our mouth about how we performed and how we played," said Hunter Henry, as the team prepared to depart to their offseason plans. "That's still fresh on our mind.
"We didn't play well down the stretch. But the biggest thing from this is how we grow."
Mac Jones will be a significant part of those plans for growth, with veteran offensive lineman Ted Karras saying it was fun to "be in the fray" with the rookie. Henry looked forward to getting an offseason to work with Mac, while restricted free agent Jakobi Meyers said he was excited about the future with him as well.
"It's been impressive," said Meyers of Mac's progression. "It's not an easy position to play or an easy team to play for. The way he came in as a rookie and played, you've got to give him a round of applause. I appreciate him and I'm really happy we have him on our team."
"I just have a ton of respect for Mac Jones," said Karras, a pending free agent who said he'd love to be back in New England. "He's going to be a great leader for this organization for a long time."
Karras is one of a few notable veteran Patriots free agents, players like Devin McCourty, Dont'a Hightower and Matthew Slater who have been an important part of the team fabric for the last decade. They not only provide championship experience but have been locker room role models.
"I feel the things that stood out were always being present," said Wise of what he learned from those vets. "No matter what's going on, always being where your feet are and being present in what you do and everything else. Being unfazed. A lot of things happen in a lot of people's careers, seasons, days, whatever. Just being unfazed, never being too high or too low, always focusing on the task at hand and then keeping your mind on the end goal.
"Just keeping it real in a sense. There's a lot of things that people go through, a lot of things that you go through, it's always good to keep it real with yourself and keep it real with people around you. A lot of good things can happen from that."
The 2021 Patriots were not a championship team but they were a pretty good one and many of the bonds formed will carry over into 2022 and continue to bear fruit.
"Honestly, the receiver room, it's one of the most fun-loving groups I've ever been around, said Meyers. "They brought a lot of fun to me and I'm really looking forward to working with them going forward."
"One thing I do know is everybody that came back and how we gel in the locker room, there's genuine love for each and every person in there and we all play for each other," said Phillips.
After a six-month-long grind, the team will now get an offseason reprieve before the Offseason Team Activities start back up in April, with a full dose of free agency leading in.
Belichick's message before the Patriots departed?
"Have a safe off-season and be ready to work when we get back," said Wise.
Patriots interview circuit
With the season over, a Patriots coach and personnel executive are slated to conduct job interviews this week. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Jerod Mayo will interview for the Broncos' open head coaching position, while scouting consultant Eliot Wolf will interview for the Bears and Vikings' GM positions.