Jones looks to lead in second season

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A promising rookie season for Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones ended with his nursing an ankle injury that limited him during the AFC Championship Game. The injury and fatigue from a full season of work weren't enough to keep Jones from getting back to work quickly in preparation for his sophomore campaign, as the 23-year-old said Thursday that he began training roughly five weeks after the season concluded.

"I was talking about that the other day," he said on the game field at Gillette Stadium. "Someone asked me, 'How was the offseason?' There really isn't an offseason. Even though you try to unplug from the game and get your mind off of it, you're always thinking about what you could've done on that play or in that game. Physically, yeah, there's definitely a resting factor, but you know mentally, you're always thinking about football. That's your job."

The offseason between a player's first and second seasons often proves to be among the most critical in his career, and while attending Super Bowl XLVII in support of his brother Arthur, a defensive lineman for the Ravens, Jones noted his desire to improve his upper-body strength because he felt his body was "disproportional." That has remained a goal and focus of his as the offseason has progressed.

"I'm still working on it, and it's a long process," he said. "You can't just wake up and just get bigger and stronger. [Strength] coach Harold [Nash] and [assistant strength] coach Moses [Cabrera] do a great job at strength and conditioning, so I'm excited."

One of the offseason training methods Jones mentioned at the Super Bowl was mixed martial arts, something he was planning on doing with his brother Jon "Bones" Jones, a UFC champion. His brother suffered a nasty toe injury in a recent fight, and we asked the younger Jones whether that derailed his MMA plans.

"His toe was pretty bad; I don't know if you guys saw it," he replied. "His toe kind of broke out of the skin. Actually I didn't go down and train with him, but I did do some boxing and MMA right up over in Providence with [Patriots defensive tackle] Brandon Deaderick. It was great training, very great training."

With an improved physique (checking in at roughly 265 pounds) and a full year under his belt, Jones is aiming to become a leader during his second season as a Patriot.

"Being a rookie, especially being a first-round draft pick, you don't want to make any mistakes," he said of offseason workouts. "You're nervous about going into every drill. Now going into my second year in the NFL, I kind of try to lead, be the first one at every drill and just try to be a leader, and that's what my biggest focus is, taking the game more serious."