FOXBORO -- Trey Flowers grabbed at the neck of his practice jersey and pulled it toward his face to get whatever beads of sweat he could.
After a minicamp practice last week, the third-year defensive end was the last player on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, under the sun, punching and swiping at blocking dummies until his navy blue No. 98 had turned an even darker shade.
"It’s not about being the last one off the field," Flowers said. "It’s just about perfecting my craft. If I see something wrong with it, just continue to work on it."
After two years in the NFL -- one in which was spent primarily on injured reserve and another during which he established himself as one of the best young interior pass-rushers in football -- Flowers is still tinkering with his form. Last season, his teammates dubbed him "Technique" in part for his willingness to chip away at the imperfections in his game.
Following the Patriots practice on the Thursday before Super Bowl LI, cameras caught Flowers working on his pass-rush moves at the University of Houston after his teammates and coaches headed inside.
"Just preparing myself," he told NFL Films for "3 Games to Glory" immediately following his 2.5-sack performance against the Falcons.
"Preparing my body and my mind to go out here and be great . . . You might not like it. You might not feel good while you're doing it, but you know it's always going to pay off."
During his most recent post-practice session, Flowers explained, he was working on his counter moves. Not the basics -- bob-swat, bob-swat-rip, bull-snatch -- which served him well last season as he recorded seven regular-season sacks from Week 8 on. No, the moves he was focused on had no real name.
They had to do more with feel, Flowers insisted. The feel, for instance, of an offensive lineman's hands attacking a certain way, countering that, then countering the blocker's counter.
"I watch film," Flowers said, "and see something I need to work on or see something maybe the offensive line picked up on. Some of my tendencies. I can kind of change them up or have a counter off of it.”
Because pads aren't allowed during spring workouts, these complicated hand-fighting dances are what trench players like Flowers are limited to in terms of contact.
Instead of lamenting the fact that he hasn't been able to bull-rush a center or put his shoulder into the chest of a running back, Flowers drove himself to near-exhaustion on the dummies last week, trying to squeeze every last bit out of his time on the field.
With just one full season under his belt that included a memorable 45-snap performance in Super Bowl LI from start (a sack of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to end Atlanta's first drive) to finish (a fourth-quarter sack that helped put the Patriots in position to tie), Flowers isn't settling for a repeat performance.
"I just want to be the best," Flowers said. "That’s the thing that motivates me the most – wanting to be the best person I can be, the best player I can be. I want to give my team the opportunity to win games and be productive. That’s all the motivation I need."