After winning their first two games, played in a short, five-day span, when the Patriots returned to the practice field in earnest earlier this week, it was the first time black jerseys were spotted on players.
A Bill Belichick tradition, black jerseys are awarded the week after victories to signify the players who did the most in practice that week to help the team win; it's a way to acknowledge backups and practice-squad players who rarely or never lay in the actual games, but show them that their contributions do not go unnoticed.
Ryan Mallett was one of the recipients this week, and he immediately smiled when a reporter mentioned it. As Tom Brady's backup, Mallett gets very few chances to play in games -- last season he got just 24 snaps over four regular-season games. He tries to win a black jersey every week, he said, joking that it's his way of earning his keep.
The 25-year-old Mallett, a third-round draft pick in 2011, endured an interesting summer, becoming all but an afterthought when the Patriots signed Tim Tebow. But Mallett showed that he is the best option as the team's No. 2 quarterback, and showed improvement during the preseason games as well.
During the spring, Mallett finished up his classes at Arkansas, commuting between Foxborough and Fayetteville, and earned his degree in May.
Favorite TV show: "Dexter." I'm a big "Dexter" fan. It's close [to ending]; I'm kind of sad. I watched all the seasons in two or three weeks last year. I watch "Big Brother", but that's ended too.
First car: A '95 Dodge Ram, single cab. It was kind of a family car -- it's a long story. It was passed down, but it's been in the family for a long time. My dad still drives it.
First job: Mowing yards; started when I was seven until I graduated from high school. I did it for my parents, then the last two years of high school I worked with a contractor [mowing grass] at apartment complexes.
Favorite meal: Surf and turf -- steak and lobster sounds great. I want some right now actually. [Do they have lobster in Arkansas?] They have lobster in Arkansas. Everyone thinks it's a foreign country! [Can you cook it yourself?] I can cook a mean steak; I can't cook lobster. I'm a grill guy -- any grill food you want, I can handle.
Prized possession: My family. Besides that, not really. I'm not a very materialistic guy.
Place I want to visit but haven't yet: I've never been to the Caribbean. I think I'm going to go in the offseason. I haven't decided which island yet.
If they made a movie about my life: It would be an unfinished one. They're still working on it right now. It's in production.
In heavy rotation on my iPod: I listen to Pandora. I listen to a lot of different stations. I don't listen to music as much as I used to ... I'm busy these days (smiles).