Micah Parsons did not look or sound like someone whose team had just won a thrilling overtime walk-off win in hostile conditions. The Cowboys had escaped Gillette Stadium with a 35-29 victory, but the rookie linebacker wasn’t particularly happy with his own contributions.
” I’m angry with myself,” Parsons stated that afternoon in New England. “I want to play better and make more plays. It’s part of the game. You’re going be there some days, and you won’t the other days. While I won’t say that I had a bad experience, there are some things I need to improve on. It’s up to me .”
Most NFL players take the bye to relax and to heal from the physical wear and tear inflicted by the game. Parsons took the week off to make some changes in his work habits and to refocus his attention on what lies ahead for Dallas… and to update his wardrobe.
“I was in New York for some time,” Parsons stated this week at The Star, Frisco . “Got me some clothes for my walk-in on game day… I had to go get right.”
But the 22-year-old wasn’t content to simply come back to work and hope that a look-good-feel-good-play-good approach would be sufficient in elevating his performance on the field.
” I was telling Coach, “Man, thank God that this bye week is over,” Parsons explained. “I had the entire week to rest, to get my mind straight, and to [address] fix some things about my game. This is your chance to do a self-scout, to see how you are doing in the first six weeks, and to plan for the final year .”
It’s difficult to imagine Parsons doing anything more than he does on the field. Parsons is third in total tackles and second for sacks. This despite having played two different positions his first two NFL games. Not every rookie linebacker can start an NFL game as a defensive lineman (for the first-time since high school) to help cover for their injured teammates.
Micah Parsons played defensive end for the first time since high school…
He had 8 pressures (most by a rookie since Nick Bosa in 2019) pic.twitter.com/ZIssNNoDFB
— PFF (@PFF) September 20, 2021
The player who likened himself with The Terminator felt that he had to do some minor maintenance on his operating system.
” Just me as a person. The little details that we discuss, such as taking care of my body, are all important to me.” he said. “I was amazed at how much my body felt after I came in. I want it to stay that way.” So I thought, “Coach, this week I have to do something different.” It felt like I was in a slump. It was a battle to get out of it. I arrived at the building an hour earlier than usual. I like to make the most of my time. Instead of sitting around and playing basketball in the locker room, I used my time to do something else. It’s the little things I do that make a difference in my playing… This is a mental game
Not to say he was lazy, but he did not slacking. As is the case in all sports, an athlete can believe he’s “off” if he so believes. Parsons went as far as to use the S-word, which many players hate to shout out loud.
“Yeah, mental slump. It’s almost like you can’t get out of this funk. Just like that, I found myself not being me. You think a lot more. I just felt like I’ve got to do more.”
He started arriving at the team facility earlier that expected. If a meeting was scheduled for 7: 30, he says, he’d arrive by 6. He has been multitasking. While he is in the hot tub, his phone records him watching video games.
Making the most of every moment. Seeking out ways to make the most of every opportunity. Never be satisfied with what has already been done.
“Obviously, you want to do more,” Parsons said. Parsons said that if you play well, others will accept it. ‘I had an okay game; we won.’ But I don’t think Michael Jordan would ever be okay with dropping 15 points and be like, ‘We won.’ I think Michael Jordan’s going to be like, ‘Man, I dropped like…’ You ever seen the video with the center and he had a great first quarter- he had 12 points- but that’s all he had the rest of the game? [Jordan] said, “You have to do that throughout the game.” I should have higher expectations for myself, and I believe the coaches have the exact same expectations. That was what was bothering me .”
Micah Parsons was frustrated after the Patriots game: “I had an OK game and we won. But I don’t think Michael Jordan would ever be OK with dropping 15 points and they won … I should have a higher expectation for myself.”
Parsons then mentioned this video pic.twitter.com/uwMPOEZz0u
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) October 29, 2021
” I mean, it’s a long football match. That’s why I try to play at full speed. You never know what play might turn out to be a play. You could tip it up and get it. If someone tackles, the ball could be yours. Any play could prove to be a game-changing one for your team. You just have to find a way out of it. Even if you make mistakes, you can always look forward to the next play. It can be difficult to manage your youth when so many people expect you to do everything right. So it was something that I had to fix personally.”
Some new suits. Arriving early. Finding ways to push himself both mentally and physically.
“It’s just all about ‘Keep growing,'” Parsons admitted, “understanding you’ve got a long way to go.”
But even that long way to go has undergone a bit of a shift in the linebacker’s mind. The Cowboys schedule says they have 11 games left to play.
Parsons was quick to make a correction to that.
“Fourteen,” he interrupted.
He includes the NFC Divisional Round and the NFC Championship Game as well as Super Bowl LVI.
“I’m thinking long-term.”
It is, in fact, a mental game.