FOXBOROUGH – The 2023 season marks a new year for Josh Uche.
The New England Patriots linebacker doesn't want to focus on 2022, in which he recorded a career-high 11.5 sacks, or beyond the 2023 season, where he's currently set to become a free agent.
All of Uche's focus is on the 2023 season. He's certainly aware that he played well to close last season, recording all 11.5 sacks in the final 10 games of the season. The 24-year-old is also aware that a strong season in 2023 could help him earn a strong payday when his rookie contract expires at the end of the year.
That's why Uche isn't resting on his laurels even as the Patriots are still in the offseason program. He says he really didn't take extra time this offseason to enjoy or appreciate his breakout after being a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
“I just feel like if you get so big-headed on what you did in the past, you’re going to trip up trying to get where you want to go,” Uche said Thursday. “I try to leave that where it’s at and understand this is a new slate. This is a new season and there’s new opportunities. If I’m worried about the past, then I can’t capitalize on the future.”
#Patriots LB Josh Uche is all focused on the 2023 season – not last year or his future contract status beyond the season.
“Last year’s last year,” Uche said on his career year w/11.5 sacks last season. “ … Just gotta try to come out here and compete.” pic.twitter.com/IfS9J6R462
— Conor Roche (@ConorRoche27) May 18, 2023
“Last year is last year. Can’t cash in on much from last year,” Uche said. “It’s a new season. Just focusing on the next opponent, just improving. It’s a new season. New plays need to be made new steps need to be taken. Just trying to forget last year, just build and become the best football player I can be.”
Uche credited veteran leaders such as Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater and specifically, Jamie Collins for helping him get through some rougher patches earlier in his career. Prior to his midseason breakout in 2022, Uche recorded just four sacks over the first 2.5 years of his career.
But the learning process won't end for Uche after last season, either.
“I know I’m not the oldest guy in the room. I’m 24,” Uche said. “So it was just a learning experience. Maturing, having mature guys in the locker room, mature leaders. I was able to learn from them. Eventually, it all came together and it’s still coming together. It’s not like I just figured it out. It’s a continuous process.”
“It’s a collective effort,” Uche later added on who he learned from. “It takes a village to raise somebody.”
Josh Uche gets home 💪 @_Uche35
📺: #NEvsMIN on NBC
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/TePpxXTdES pic.twitter.com/ugbvRs1MHS
— NFL (@NFL) November 25, 2022
What's also helped Uche through much of his third season and into the offseason is finding ways to decompress once he leaves the team's facility for the day. A pair of things Uche uses to help decompress are prayer and meditation. He also watches “Moving Art,” a show on Netflix that examines nature and other things.
All those things helped Uche feel “more free” during last season.
“Not stressing the things I can’t control and controlling the controllables for myself and just going out and having fun,” Uche said of his mindset. “Kind of when I found my groove, I found myself having a lot more fun and not worrying about the other things. Just going out there being the best football player I can be and being the best teammate I can be.”
Josh Uche is using that mindset to not only help on the field, but in his contract situation too.
“Comes back to controlling the controllable,” Uche said of entering the final year of his contract. “All I can do is come in each day, work as hard as I can.
” … The rest will just fall into place. I can’t control that right now.”