FOXBORO -- Why the Patriots haven’t issued number appropriate jerseys for their rookie class has been the subject of some speculation. Perhaps it was because one took to Twitter to poll his followers on what number would look best on him. Or maybe it’s just Bill Belichick’s way of making the rooks earn their job. Whatever the rationale, it remains odd to see quarterback Danny Etling don 58, or first-round pick Sony Michel sport 51.
“This is my real number,” said Michel when asked today, adding, “This is what they gave me. This is what I’m going to wear.”
Michel doesn’t have to worry about being given a duplicate number as some other players get. He’s got a spot on the team, and the plan is for him to contribute right away. He arrived in Foxboro with the reputation of being an explosive player, maybe the second-most explosive back in his draft class behind fellow first-rounder Saquon Barkley. But he also carried the tag of being a little loose when it came to the football. He had 12 career fumbles at the University of Georgia and has put the ball on the ground here in Foxboro both in the spring and again during Saturday’s training camp practice.
“You have to keep pushing forward," Michel said when I asked if he was angry with himself. "I got a whole practice to go. That was yesterday, I just have to keep moving forward.”
Asked if that was a point that’s been stressed to him by the coaching staff, Michel added, “Ball security is important in football, period. No matter what position you play. The game of football, ball security is very important.”
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Michel has shown flashes during his brief time with the Patriots, powering in from the 3 yard line yesterday during goal line drills, and then turning a screen pass into a big gainer today (although the defense was exactly going all out). The crowd didn’t seem to care about the overall defensive effort, erupting in applause.
“It was pretty cool,” recalled Michel of the reaction, “but the most impressive thing was the team effort. Everybody executing their job and actually giving the play an ability to happen.”
In order to earn consistent playing time in a crowded backfield, the rookie will also have to handle blitz pickup and overall pass protection. Many scouts felt as though he was already pro-ready in that department and while we’ve yet to see him have to do it during training camp, Michel knows how important that task is.
“It’s another aspect of the game that you gotta be willing to do for the team,” he said. “If you’re willing to do your job, you’re willing to do whatever it is- whether it pass protect, run the ball, catch the ball, whatever it is.”
Michel already knows how to say the right things, but the key to succeeding under Bill Belichick is to make sure you do the right things. If he hasn’t already figured that out, he just may if he puts the ball on the ground again. Kevin Faulk, Stevan Ridley and even Chris Hogan - just to name a few - learned the hard way with a seat on the sidelines. It would be hard to envision anything different happening with the 23-year old so it’d be best for Michel to make sure he’s not separated from the ball again.