FOXBORO -- In Sunday night's 31-24 loss to the Seahawks, the Patriots used defensive end Jabaal Sheard on just 16 defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. It was the lowest snap-count total he's seen since he injured his ankle after 15 snaps against the Colts last season.
Sheard sat almost the entire first quarter as he watched fellow defensive ends Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long and Trey Flowers log more regular reps. He was asked after the game if he was surprised by his usage, or if it had been conveyed to him that he would have a reduced role as part of the game plan.
SEAHAWKS 31, PATRIOTS 24:
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"That's just the game, man," Sheard said. "[That's] how the game goes . . . I'm just upset we lost, man. Try to bounce back and get ready for San Fran next week."
Asked if he felt as though he needed to do anything to prove to the coaching staff that he deserved more playing time, Sheard replied, "Just focus on San Fran, man. That's all I can do. Go out there and practice good this week."
Sheard suffered a knee injury during the preseason that limited his reps in training camp, but he has not been on the injury report of late, and he suffered no apparent injuries against the Seahawks.
Last season, as part of a three-man rotation with Ninkovich and Chandler Jones, Sheard recorded eight sacks and forced four fumbles in 13 games. Headed into the final year of his two-year contract with the Patriots this season, he seemed to be on the short list of candidates worthy of a lucrative extension.
This season, he has 3.5 sacks, and he did not record any tackles in Sunday night's loss.
Flowers appeared to make the most of his playing time (61 snaps) on Sunday, picking up two quarterback pressures, two hits, 1.5 sacks and a run stuff. Ninkovich also had a productive day on the edge, recording four pressures, two hits and a sack.
When asked about the playing time Flowers received, Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn't make the situation any more complicated than it had to be.
"There's really no difference for any players on the team," Belichick said. "Everybody earns their playing time. Players that play the best earn the playing time. If they play better than another player then they play more than the other player. If another player plays better than them, then they play less than the other guy. You earn your opportunities. You earn your playing time. That's the way it is."
That Sheard hadn't earned more than 16 snaps on Sunday night stood out.