He's one of the most visible players on the field whenever the Patriots play, yet one of the most conspicuously absent in the locker room whenever media show up.
Second-year linebacker Jamie Collins stopped by his locker for a few minutes before Thursday's practice and granted a rare interview with a handful of reporters. He explained why he's typically reticent when it comes to talking about himself, preferring to let his play on the field speak for itself.
"I'm just getting ready. I'm always keeping to myself. I hear about it," he said of the positive press he often receives, "but I'm just going about my business. I don't brag, I don't do any of that, I just play ball, man. I stick to me."
View photos from media access during AFC Championship week as the Patriots prepare to face the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, January 18, 2015.
Collins wowed observers last season in the playoff game against Indianapolis when he did a remarkable job of covering Colts tight end Coby Fleener and made a number of impressive plays in the Patriots win. Some analysts went on to predict that Collins could become a regular starter on this year's defense (which he did) and someday be one of the league's best linebackers.
"It's all good to hear things like that. I take all that in when I hear about it," Collins conceded. "I try not to get too deep in it. That's not my cup of tea, you know, I've never been that type of guy."
It's clear, though, that Collins is a more consistent player than he was in his rookie season. Collins has shown an uncommon ability to make plays as a pass rusher, against the run, and dropping into pass coverage. And while he can't recall exactly when he achieved his current comfort level in New England's defense, he does know the reason behind it.
"I'm really comfortable. Once you learn the playbook, then you can go out there and do whatever you have to do. And that's one thing I've done: I've learned the playbook. I've grinded it out and it's all panning out. It's a hard job, that playbook. I'm still learning right now.
"I can rise. I can get great, I can get way better," Collins proclaimed. "There's always room for improvement. You're saying I can do all those things, but I can do them better."
This weekend, Collins will once again face athletic Colts QB Andrew Luck. It will be the third time in two seasons, giving Collins plenty of film to study his opponent.
"It helps," he admitted, "but it's a new season right now. You have to expect the unexpected."
According to cornerback Darrelle Revis, Luck reminds him distinctly of Indy's previous QB.
"He's very talented," Revis said Thursday. "He's a rising young star, and he's unbelievable what he does, man. The passes he throws, the way he runs the offense kinda looks like Peyton Manning all over again. He's great. You just gotta give him his credit. He's worked hard, he's brought them this far, and it's the matchup we got. We're looking forward to it."
The Patriots have handled the Colts with relative ease in all three previous meetings versus Luck. What will they have to do to make it four straight on Sunday night in the AFC Championship Game?
"What do we have to do? Just play Patriot football," Revis declared. "Just play Patriot football and continue to play like we've been playing all year and not put on any added pressure on us as a team. Just look at it that way. Just go out there and play Patriot football."
O Brother, Where Art Thou
In the last Colts-Patriots match on Nov. 16 in Indy, neither DE Chandler Jones nor his brother Arthur, a Colts d-lineman, was in the lineup that night. Both were injured – Chandler with a hip, Arthur an ankle.
Both brothers are expected to be fit to play Sunday night in Foxborough, however.
"My mom and dad are pretty excited," Jones told reporters Thursday. "They get to go to the Championship no matter what. But, it'll be a good family gathering, and everyone will be there, so that'll be fun for our family. They'll probably root for both of the defenses."
Arthur used to play for Baltimore before signing with the Colts as a free agent this past offseason, so, he and Chandler have squared off a number of times as professionals. Aside from game days, however, the two don't have much other chance to catch up.
"No, I don't see too much of him. I really don't see a lot of the other players before the game," Jones explained. "We don't talk too much trash. No, actually we rarely talk. But that's how it is usually. We're both very busy, so we rarely get a chance to see each other. He's a good player and I've been a fan of him since he started playing football. He's the reason why I started playing football. I followed him into the sport, and we've made it this far.
"For a weekend like this for us to go out there and have a family gathering, it'll be a good time."
The Patriots practiced in shells and helmets on the Gillette stadium game field. For the second straight day, rookie center Bryan Stork (right knee) was the only player not on the field. He was not seen during the media interview period in the locker room either. It's looking more and more like Stork will be unavailable for Sunday's game against Indy.