It didn’t take Tom Brady long to learn Josh Boyce’s name.
“He knew my name before we even met,” said Boyce, a fourth-round pick of the New England Patriots.
But it took Brady longer to trust Boyce.
Boyce finally was the “next man up” for the Patriots, and the former TCU receiver took advantage of his opportunity.
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With fellow rookie receivers Aaron Dobson (foot) and Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) out with injuries, Boyce had three catches for 49 yards last week in his first extended playing time in the NFL.
“It felt great,” Boyce said in a phone interview. “I’ve been practicing really hard and just trying to work on my game, every little part of it, and it’s finally starting to pay off. So it felt good.”
His biggest play came with seconds remaining when Browns defensive back Leon McFadden was called for defensive pass interference against Boyce in the end zone. Brady then threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola, his second TD pass in 30 seconds, as the Patriots completed the improbable comeback.
“We needed a play at the end of the game. We needed a score,” Boyce said. “So I just ran and drew the flag.”
The play showed that Brady now trusts Boyce enough, despite the receiver’s lack of NFL experience, to go to him at crunch time.
“It does give me confidence to know he wanted to go to me in that situation,” Boyce said. “It showed he had confidence in me and that my work in practice is paying off.”
Boyce, who played 72 of 83 snaps in the 27-26 victory, even got a pat on the back from his head coach last week.
“You can see him getting better on the practice field, which has eventually here led to some playing time in the kicking game first and then offensively,” Bill Belichick told reporters in New England. “He’s been able to, to a certain degree, take the ball and run with it. Again, I think there’s a long way to go here, but certainly [there’s] progress, and he’s gotten positive results that have shown up now for a couple weeks.”
Boyce underwent surgery March 5 in McKinney to repair a fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his right foot. He doesn’t blame that on his slow start, but he was a healthy scratch for five games.
Boyce had played only 69 snaps and caught only two passes for 30 yards before last week.
“I stayed in all the meetings and took all the notes I could,” Boyce said. “It’s the NFL. You’ve got to keep working, because your chance could come at any time. I just kept trying to get better at the little things in my game, and it paid off.”
Jolly returning to form
Johnny Jolly isn’t the same Johnny Jolly from 2009.
He hopes to get back there as a player, but vows never to return there as a person.
Jolly had become the Green Bay Packers’ most disruptive defensive lineman with Pro Bowl potential before multiple drug arrests, an NFL suspension and a prison sentence. He spent six months as inmate 01753057 in the James H. Byrd Texas State Prison.
Jolly admits an addiction to “purple drank,” prescription cough syrup that contains codeine and promethazine mixed with a soft drink.
Awarded a second chance with NFL reinstatement Feb. 27, and married four months later, Jolly has no fear of falling off the wagon.
“That don’t cross my mind,” Jolly said in a conference call last week. “I know where I’m headed. … Most guys don’t get a second chance, and I’m blessed to have a second chance. I’m taking advantage of it.”
The Packers stood behind Jolly through his tribulations and his trial, retaining his rights for the three years he was out of football and then renegotiating his contract to $710,000 for this season.
“Once he was able to get to a certain point, we felt strongly about bringing him back based on our relationship with Johnny and his time here and keeping track of what was going on with him when he was going through his struggles,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He was given an opportunity and a structure was laid out, and he’s taken full advantage of it.”
Jolly, a sixth-round pick in 2006 from Texas A&M, made the roster and has become a starter. He has started seven games, made 21 tackles and had one sack and a pass defensed.
Jolly wouldn’t reveal how much weight he gained while out of the game, but he admits he still is getting back into football shape.
He has his same locker, his same jersey number and his same nastiness. But he is not the Johnny Jolly of 2009 yet.
“I’m getting there,” he said. “It’s a process. Three years is a long time to sit out in this game that we play. I’m blessed to be back in this situation.”