Aggressiveness is key for any defensive player. Learning not to be too aggressive is just as important, and it is the toughest thing Barcelona defensive back Sean Morey has learned this season.
Morey, who spent last season in Barcelona as a wide receiver, was allocated by New England to learn the nuances of playing in the secondary. Early in his life on defense, he wanted to make a big play every time the ball came his direction.
"Patience has been the biggest thing I've had to learn," Morey said. "The transition from playing receiver to going to defensive back is tough because as a receiver you are constantly trying to threaten technique and get up on the defensive backs to get open. As a defensive back, you can't jump every route. When I first started in training camp, I wanted to go for the pick and jump every route."
The project has gone very well for Morey, who played in every game and started three, including the final two of the year. As the season went along, he found he could pick his spots to go after the ball better. He is quite proud of the fact that big plays against him were limited and only one touchdown came against him as a result of a coverage mix-up.
"I'm happy the Patriots thought enough of me to send me out here to get the experience," Morey said. "I watched film of myself in the first game of the year and I watch film of myself now, and it looks like two different players. In my coverages and understanding of routes, I feel so much more comfortable. I think I can really contribute when I get back home."
Barcelona Head Coach Jack Bicknell believes there is certainly a place for Morey in the NFL. Bicknell knew Morey was a versatile player, but he didn't realize just how rounded he could be.
"Sean is a very interesting story because that is probably the most difficult thing you could ever do, to go from an offensive player to a defensive player," Bicknell said. "The thing that he has, which he has never had a problem with, is that he is tough. The physical nature of playing defense is absolutely not a problem for him.
"He has played every special teams play that we have had every year. He has played corner, and no one, including the Patriots, thought he would be a corner. He has done just about everything, and he has given himself a chance when he goes back to the Patriots camp to make it on special teams for sure. He can now also be a factor as an extra nickel or defensive back, and if they ever got decimated with injuries, he can still be an offensive performer. He has really helped himself a lot."
Because Morey has been on both sides of the ball, he can help his teammates out as well. Wide receiver Bryan Gilmore said he has heeded the Morey's advice throughout the season.
"If I do something as a receiver that he notices and it can help me, he'll tell me," Gilmore said. "For example, he said at one point, 'Don't stand up when you are coming out of your breaks.' The next time out that made a big difference and I was able to make some plays. He's a very smart fellow, and he goes hard all the time, which makes us go hard.
"Football players tend to follow a lot. If you see somebody taking a play off, most of the time somebody else is going to take a play off too. If you have a player who never takes a play off, everybody is going to stay motivated, and that's what he does for us."
That high motor has allowed Morey to make his biggest mark in the kicking game. He had five special teams tackles, two blocked extra points and a blocked field goal in addition to finishing third in the regular defense with 39 stops. This is key because his best shot of sticking on the New England roster when he returns for training camp is through a role with the coverage units.
While he has played cornerback and nickel back for the Dragons, it is uncertain exactly where in the Patriots defensive backfield Morey will be. Though he is learning the man-cover skills on the edge, he may be better suited as a safety.
"I really don't know what position I'll play in the secondary, but I think coming over here to learn cover skills is big for me," Morey said. "In order to play defensive back I needed to improve my coverage skills, and that's what I've been able to do."
He also hasn't given up on being an offensive player. He figures the more he can do, the better his chances are of sticking with the Patriots.
"I am still a very confident wide receiver with my speed and my quickness," Morey said. "When I get back, I think I can step in at wide receiver any time if they needed me to do so, whether it's in camp or whenever. That part of my game is still as sharp as it's ever been, and I'm still going to improve both parts of my game."
Megna ready for former mates
A familiar face will be on the sideline opposite Morey and Tony Simmons this Saturday. Linebacker Marc Megna, who spent parts of the last two seasons with the Patriots, will start for the Berlin Thunder in the World Bowl.
Making things even more interesting for the Fall River, Mass., native is that he spent last summer with the Dragons.
"I had a great time playing there last year and it was a good experience, but I'm just playing the game and this is my family now," Megna said. "It's a great group of guys, and I am very fortunate to be here. This season has been unique because we have a team-oriented group. Most guys come to Europe with personal goals set because they want to stick out to attract the eyes of scouts. This team has put winning ahead of notoriety, which is unusual."
Megna himself is looking to get noticed. Though he was allocated by New England, he was waived shortly after the NFL Europe season began, leaving him unemployed come next week.
"Right now I am unemployed," Megna said. "I'm hoping to get some calls from NFL teams, but what I hear is that NFL teams can not formally contact anyone until after the season. Hopefully I get a call. I have heard through the grapevine that there are teams interested in me, but that doesn't matter until you are asked to come to camp."
So, does the prospect of not having a team to return to pose as a distraction during his preparation for the championship game?
"No, it's not a distraction at all because I really feel I'll be playing somewhere for training camp," Megna said. "If not, there is more to life than football. Football means more to me than anything in the world and I have worked my whole life to get this far, but I've already been in the league two years. Not too many guys even get two years in NFL football, and I'm very fortunate to have done that. After football is done I will go on to the next thing."
For now he is looking forward to the possibility of laying a lick on his former teammate, given the chance. Since Morey is now on defense, Simmons would be the target.
"Of course," Megna said with a smile when asked if he wanted a piece of the wide receiver. "Anytime you have friends or people you have played with in the past and you are going up against them, you want to give them the best you've got, and you want them to do the same. Tony and Sean are both very talented players, and I look forward to playing against them."
Morey back to reserve role
Though he started the final two games of the regular season, Morey will likely be a backup for the title game. Starter Anthony Malbrough, an All-League team member, is expected to return from the ankle injury that caused him to miss the end of the regular season.
Morey, who played the entire game all three times Malbrough was sidelined, will still see plenty of action. When Malbrough was in the lineup, Morey still played all of the second and fourth quarters.
"Anthony is back, but Sean is and has been a big part of our defense," Bicknell said. "It just makes the defense stronger to have everyone."… Grammy Award-winning rapper Coolio will perform the halftime show at the World Bowl… The game will be broadcast nationally on Fox at noon ET on Saturday.