FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Jalen Ramsey has approached trash talking — both dishing it out and receiving it — with open arms for most of his football career.
When initiating it he’s been an equal opportunity offender, even when his words were aimed at possibly two of the best players to ever play their respective positions.
Ramsey sent ripples across the league last month when he was asked by “ESPN The Magazine” for his opinion of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and said: “I don’t think Gronk is as great as people think he is.”
The comments came months after the Jaguars’ 24-20 loss to the Patriots in last season’s AFC championship game, in which Gronkowski caught only one pass before being knocked out of the game with a concussion in the first half.
That same game also saw Ramsey briefly exchange words with reigning MVP Tom Brady during pregame warmups.
It’s all added extra fuel to the budding rivalry as New England prepares to visit Jacksonville on Sunday.
“If that’s how he feels, that’s how he feels,” Gronkowski said Wednesday. “It’s a big game. ... I’m sure I’m gonna have opportunities go against him. And I’m sure he’s gonna have opportunities to go against me.”
For his part, Ramsey has never backed down from his comments.
“I don’t live my life with regrets, man. Things happen. I said what I said,” Ramsey said after his comments went viral.
“I love the competitiveness. I love the trash talking. I love the challenge. I love literally everything about the game, so I have no regrets. ... Hey, I’m me: Unapologetic.”
Ramsey’s teammates said his often-biting words are what make Ramsey the player he is.
Trash talking is, “part of his game,” defensive lineman Calais Campbell said.
“I tell him all the time ‘Man, hey, whatever you do just make sure that we’re gonna back you up...We’re gonna be there for you,’” Campbell said. “But I have nothing but confidence in Jalen. He’s a very smart guy ... Very passionate. So I won’t ever try to contain somebody and not let him be himself.”
Ramsey was a first-team All-Pro in his second year in the league last season, but had a relatively quiet AFC title game against New England. He finished with just two tackles as Brady engineered late-game heroics to erase a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit.
Ramsey said recently that he thinks the biggest reason for the Jaguars losing that game was that they became too conservative.
Of the talent of Brady, who exploited that conservatism, Ramsey told “GQ” magazine that he puts him in the category of quarterbacks who don’t “suck.”
“I never want to suck,” Brady said with a smile Wednesday. “So I never want to be in that category.”
Brady is expecting “an emotional environment” on Sunday against a defense that he considers one of the best in the AFC. He added that he thinks Ramsey is “a great young player.” Brady said a little trash talk is part of the game.
“I think it raises everybody’s game, as long as it doesn’t get to point where you do something stupid,” Brady said. “I think emotion in football is critical.”
Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone said that any conversations he’s had with Ramsey about his tendency to speak his mind would remain private.
But Marrone was also quick to offer praise for both Gronkowski and Brady, whom he said were possibly the best to play the game at their positions.
He said he isn’t concerned about Ramsey’s comments providing the Patriots bulletin board material.
“I mean, it is what it is,” Marrone said. “We’re all men and we’ve got to stand by what we say and you’ve got to speak for yourself and be able to do that. We’ve just got to go out there and play.”
Said Gronkowski: “I feel like this game you gotta keep your head on a swivel and be ready for anything.”
Notes: Rookie RB Sony Michel spoke to reporters for the first time since injuring his knee during training camp. He was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and said he was “doing all I can do” to be back in uniform for Sunday’s game. “My mindset is to prepare as if I’m playing,” he said. Michel, who was taken 31st overall in April’s draft, is one of two Patriot first-round picks on the mend. Tackle Isaiah Wynn (selected 23rd overall) was lost for the season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon in the preseason. RB Rex Burkhead remains in the concussion protocol after taking a blow to the head in last week’s opener.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower
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