It’s been a crazy year for defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois. And that crazy year will end with a return to the Super Bowl, five years after making his only other appearance.
He heads to the NFL’s championship game with the public approval of the coach who signed him as a free agent after he’d been released by Washington once and Green Bay twice.
“Ricky’s a smart guy,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters on Monday. “He’s worked very hard to pick up our system. He’s given us a really solid level of play in the running game and the passing game. He’s a smart player. He’s got good instincts. He recognizes plays well, especially sometimes from more difficult to recognize type of plays or plays that are designed to throw you off. His ability to see those is good. He’s worked hard to learn our system and pick up the fundamentals and techniques that we’ve tried to utilize. I’m glad we have him. He’s done a good job.”
Belichick actually decided at one point last month that he didn’t want Jean-Francois, releasing him on December 2 before bringing him back on December 13. He has appeared in every game since then, starting both in Week 16 against Buffalo and Sunday against the Jaguars.
Sunday wasn’t Jean-Francois’ first appearance in an AFC title game in New England; he played with the Colts in the infamous #DeflateGate game three years ago.