FOXBORO, Mass. — Rookies and veterans alike, every player is guilty of playing the numbers game. Even before training camp, they'll look over the roster and check out the competition for their spot on the team.
Naturally, the younger, less-established guys sweat a little more while they peer over the depth charts, and last year, Patriots defensive tackle Myron Pryor had to ice down his jaw after it hit the table. Pryor was overcome with an immediate joy after getting selected in the sixth round of the 2009 draft, but he eventually realized how difficult it would be to make the team.
Head coach Bill Belichick has always loaded up his defensive line, and the unit was stacked with proven veterans such as Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Jarvis Green and Mike Wright. Plus, the Patriots used a second-round draft pick on Ron Brace, so Pryor knew he was an instant underdog.
"It was very slim because we had a lot of guys at our position, and I really didn't know how it was going to go," Pryor said Tuesday morning. "I didn't know how everything was going to unfold. I was just like, 'Man, this is a lot of guys. Guys have been here for awhile doing it good.' I figured I'd just come in, work hard, do my thing and see where it takes me."
Seymour's trade opened up a roster position, and Pryor took advantage of it, earning one of six spots for the team's defensive linemen. He eventually overtook Brace on the depth chart, and Pryor was credited with 23 tackles (13 solo) in 13 regular-season games.
The Kentucky product has always trusted his ability to succeed in each level of football, but even Pryor knew how difficult it would have been to crack into the Patriots lineup.
"I don't want to sound cocky or anything," Pryor said. "Before I got [to New England], my [Kentucky] D-line coach [Rick Petri] — I think he's one of the best — he just told me, 'If you just keep working hard like you do, Myron, you should have no problem.' I took that mentality. I figured that my main goal was to make the team, and after I did that, I was like, 'I've got to get on the field.' Just learning [and progressing in every] step in the game, I couldn't believe it."