When the calendar flipped from Dec. 31 to Jan. 1, Ricky Jean Francois was happy to put 2017 behind him.
The Patriots defensive lineman was released four times by three teams — including the Patriots — but Jean Francois feels fortunate to have what might be one last chance to win a Super Bowl ring.
“I’m very lucky to be ending this regular season with the New England Patriots,” Jean Francois said this week. “But I don’t have any expectations for Jan. 13 or the rest of the playoffs. If you have too many expectations or look forward too much in this league you can get into trouble. I’m just staying true to myself and getting ready for anything. I’ll be prepared for whoever we face and to play whatever my role is going to be to help my team win.”
Jean Francois, who was a seventh-round pick by the 49ers in the 2009 NFL Draft, began 2017 with the Redskins. He had signed a three-year deal with Washington in 2015, but the Redskins released him in March. He then signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Packers, who released him in Sept. 12 only to bring him back nine days later.
The Packers released him outright on Nov. 1 and he signed with the Patriots on Nov. 7. The former LSU standout was given his walking papers by the Patriots on Dec. 2, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick decided to bring him back on Dec. 13.
“At first it was aggravating to be released, re-signed, released, re-signed,” Jean Francois said. “But I’m a businessman. This is not personal. I learned to remove my feelings from it and just started enjoying the journey. And I ended up with one of the most prestigious and successful organizations in the entire league.”
The 31-year-old Miami native has been a role player for the Patriots with 10 tackles in six games, including one start. He was named one of the team’s practice players of the week after New England’s Week 17 win over the Jets that sealed homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs.
Jean Francois has been on playoff teams with the 49ers, Colts and Redskins and played in San Francisco’s loss to the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. After such a roller-coaster season, Jean Francois understands this could be it for his NFL career and he’d like to go out a champion.
“You never really know the reasons why things happen or what could come, so I just stayed prepared,” Jean Francois said. “I was ready for this journey and didn’t even know it, but slowly I started figuring things out. It was emotionally and physically draining at times, but I had a great support system and family around me to help me work through all the steps of this season. I’m blessed to have gone through it all and to be where I am today.
“I was always told when I was young, ‘If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,'” Jean Francois continued. “And it’s easy to say trust the process until you’re actually going through it. It tested me, but now I’m enjoying the rewards of the journey.”