FOXBORO -- Did Jonas Gray look quicker to you in Thursday’s preseason opener versus the Packers? Did he look faster? There’s a reason behind that, one that goes beyond Gray’s initial acknowledgement postgame that he’d lost somewhere between 3 to 5 pounds. That weight loss may not seem like much - as I noted to the hulkish running back - but Gray says it goes beyond the physical benefit. It’s mental as well.
“I think its just a mindset,” said Gray after Monday’s training camp practice. “When you feel lighter, you play a lot faster. That physical part of my game is never going to leave, but being able to run away from guys and get more yards and get more out of plays, you know, from watching film last year and seeing runs I had that I could have taken the distance, or gained more yards on it, I knew this year that was going to be a difference between was I going to play more, or play a little bit.”
So the man who emasculated the Colts in prime time a season ago, rushing for 201 yards and 4 touchdowns to earn the cover of Sports Illustrated, worked harder than he’s ever worked during the offseason, to show not only the coaching staff, but his teammates, that this version of Jonas Gray is all about business.
“I knew,“ said Gray, “for the guys to be able to trust me week in and week out, I would have to come here in great shape and show 'em how serious I am about being a player on this team and helping this team out.”
That has been evident as camp has gone on. Instead of just running to the hole, or just working his way through it before slowing down, Gray is channeling his inner Jim Brown. Every run has purpose, and even when there is nowhere to go, the former Notre Dame product keeps those legs churning well after the whistle.
“One thing I knew the coaches wanted to see was [me] to do more stuff in the open field,” acknowledged Gray. “I’m trying to emulate that in practice so every time I get that opportunity if I’m stopped, I totally try to run through and get a good 10 to 15 to 20 yards down the field, to prepare myself mentally to do that.”
You can’t knock the hustle, and even Bill Belichick, who walked by Gray’s interview session with a wary eye, would probably agree with that.