Move over over Rob Gronkowski, Robert Kraft, Vince Wilfork, and Tom Brady, there's a new Sports Illustrated Patriots cover boy in town, and his name is Jonas Gray.
Gray graces the cover of this week's SI after his franchise-record setting performance in Indianapolis Sunday night when the Patriots unheralded running back ran for four touchdowns to go along with 199 yards on the ground.
Gray tells SI that he knows the Bill Belichick coached team does things differently than most other teams in the NFL.
“I’ve been on two other teams, but [nothing] compares to here,” Gray said. “Everybody comes to work. They know what the schedule is. They stay late. They put in extra time. It’s about winning and it’s not about winning. It’s about the process."
The four rushing touchdowns by Gray is the most by a Patriots rusher in the regular season in team history, but you may remember another punishing Patriots runner who found the end zone four times early in the year.
In January, LeGarrette Blount made the cover of SI after the former Patriots running back scored four TDs against the Colts in the AFC divisional playoff game in Foxborough accompanied by the headline, "Blount Force Drama."
In the 43-22 playoff win over the Colts, Blount set a team record -- regular season and postseason at the time -- when he scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the game. The fourth touchdown came on a 73-yard run in the fourth quarter, the second-longest TD run in Patriots playoff history. Blount also tied former Patriots running back Curtis Martin for rushing yards in a playoff game with 166.
But things changed in a hurry when the Patriots faced the Broncos in Denver for the AFC championship. New England had 64 yards rushing in the 26-16 loss, with Blount getting only five carries for six yards. He didn’t get a single carry in the second half.
“I had big expectations,” Blount said after the game. “They stopped us, that’s what made the difference.”
And Blount's career in New England stopped after that game and the free-agent went on to sign a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Patriots had interest in re-signing Blount, but the Steelers were more proactive in going after him.
Now the drama on Blount centers around his disappearing act -- literally -- in Pittsburgh's 27-24 win over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville Monday night. During the fourth quarter as the game was winding down, Blount left the field without telling his coaches after playing in only a couple of snaps and not receiving a carry for the first time this season. Steeler running back Le'Veon Bell has been the star on the ground for Pittsburgh this season. He rushed for a career-high 204 yards on 33 carries Monday night.
According to multiple reports, Steelers defensive assistant Joey Porter saw Blount leaving the locker room and called him to come back several times. Blount briefly came back in but left again before his teammates had begun postgame interviews.
“At least one player thought they should leave [Blount] in Nashville,” according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Blount has been an internal problem for at least a month for the Steelers and sources told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he is dragging down star halfback Le’Veon Bell.”
Blount -- who was arrested along with Bell were arrested in August for misdemeanor marijuana possession -- has now been released by the Steelers who tweeted out the news Tuesday afternoon.
We have released running back LeGarrette Blount.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 18, 2014
It's a far cry from a year ago when Blount was playing the role Gray is mastering so well for the Patriots today.