FOXBORO, Mass. — Away from the field, the Patriots' locker room is chock-full of guys who are overly polite and very personable.
On the field, they're ruthless, vicious and downright nasty, willing to do whatever they need to pull off a victory in this violent game.
It's a pretty common characteristic for players in the NFL, but their ability to flip that proverbial switch is often forgotten about. The guys who can't pull off the Jekyll-and-Hyde persona aren’t always able to succeed, whether it's on the field or out in the everyday world.
"You turn the switch on as soon as you walk on the field," Patriots defensive lineman Mike Wright said. "You've got work to be done, and the guy across from you is going to try to rip your head off, so you really have no choice but to flip the switch. That’s pretty much how it goes."
Pats tight end Alge Crumpler might be the best example of this trait in New England. He's overly nice, very soft spoken and extremely mild-mannered, and he prides himself on being a valuable veteran presence for his younger teammates. Yet, he also brags about his hard-nosed style on the field and will challenge his opponents to believe he'll play so politely on the field.
"Any time the lights are on, you've got to put your mind in a state of whatever it takes to get the job done," Crumpler said. "You just can't be a nice, calm guy in the sport of football. It just doesn’t work that way."
Some players fire themselves up before the game with music or videos or whatever happens to work. Others, like right guard Stephen Neal, have kind of learned to mellow out before marching onto the turf, where they'll let the crowd and the intense atmosphere do the work for them.
"When I used to wrestle, I used to get real fired up like that, but then I realized that burns a lot of energy," said Neal, who was a national champion wrestler at Cal State Bakersfield. "I just try to stay relaxed and go out there. We practice this every day, so hopefully you can get out there and do what you're supposed to do."
The dynamic can be even more difficult for guys who are almost solely special teamers. They don’t get any time to really warm up or get into a groove. For players like linebacker Tracy White, long snapper Jake Ingram and wide receiver Matthew Slater, it's a matter of going from zero to 60 to zero in just a few seconds.
Cornerback Kyle Arrington, who was a special teams ace before his defensive reps spiked last week, said it can be a challenge to keep the tenacity where it needs to be throughout a game.
"When you're in that position, it's one rep, so you've just go and play as hard as you possible can because it's not like you're out there for a 20-play drive or anything like that," Arrington said. "You get one shot at a time, so it's all or nothing on that play."
Then, of course, the players have to calm themselves down after the game, which can be an equally daunting task. For some, it can take a half-hour to an hour, and for others, it's an overnight thing.
It can be a tricky dynamic for some players to balance — going from an afternoon when someone else is trying to decapitate them, to an evening at home when that adrenaline won't stop bubbling.
"The night after every game is never a good night of sleep, whether you won or you lost," Wright said. "You always have to take at least a few hours just to wind down and get yourself back into the normal routine of being a normal person."
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