Belichick doesn't care about regular-season progress: 'It’s where it’ll be next Saturday night'

Belichick doesn't care about regular-season progress: 'It’s where it’ll be next Saturday night'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick was just waiting for someone -- anyone -- to give him an opening. Just give him a chance to funnel the conversation in the direction he wanted.
And then he’d take the point he wanted to make -- that nothing in the world matters as much as next Saturday night’s AFC divisional playoff game -- and burrow it into his team’s collective skin like a tick.
So the benign question posed about communication at the linebacker level improving this year was treated like heresy.

“It doesn’t really matter where anything was,” said Belichick. “It’s where it’ll be next Saturday night. That’ll be the challenge, to have everything the best that it can be next Saturday night.

“Honestly, I don’t really care where anything was during the regular season. It doesn’t matter how good it was or it wasn’t. It doesn’t matter,” he added. “The only thing that matters is where it is next Saturday night. That’s what we have to work toward, making each one of us, every player, every coach be able to give our absolute best performance next Saturday night. That’s all we care about. So we can keep working on everything, we need work on everything, but we’ve got to do a good job next Saturday night.

With the Patriots off Friday through Sunday, the potential is always there for some of the 60 players on the roster or practice squad to just ride the wind for a couple of days, enjoy their time off.
That isn’t, however, what the bye week is meant to be about in New England.
“The first bye week (back in October), we were having a bye week to rest up for whatever’s left for the season,” said Devin McCourty. “The reality of this bye week is we could be rested up and putting in work to play one game. I think once you’ve been here for a while you realize that you’re putting in the work for a couple of games left and then that’s it; the season is over. I think that’s the message you want everyone to know: ‘Whatever you think you want to do right now you can hold off, because the reality is if you don’t put everything in then you’ll be doing that in two weeks anyways.’ ”
This is about building to a fever pitch of preparation, not getting the oil changed and your dog to the groomer.

This is Belichick’s life’s work. His religion. It’s the family business passed down to him by his father, a business his father practiced side-by-side with the legendary Paul Brown. To treat this bye week as anything other than a period of solemnity and reflection, you must be out your mind?

Asked if he’d take a moment to relax this weekend, Belichick resisted doing a spit take and replied, “I mean we’re in the home stretch right here. I don’t think this is the time for the coaches to back off, or anybody for that matter. This is what it’s all about. This is the highest level of competition that you can have. It’s the best teams. We’re going to have to play and coach our best, and we don’t know who it is so there are right now three teams that we could potentially play that we have to be ready for. Regardless of who we play, there are things that we need to do but then we also need to know as much as we can and be prepared for the players when they come back in to give them the best information and the best scouting report and the best game plan we can to give them the best chance to win. That job isn’t done yet. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

So it went for most of a 15-minute press conference. It wasn’t a relaxed, end-of-the-week Belichick but it wasn’t a prickly one either. Hence, we kept getting signals crossed and offering those reflective-type questions that he kept sending back in our face like an in-his-prime Karch Kiraly.

Last year’s health relative to this year’s. That was the last one put on the tee for him.
“I don’t really care about last year,” he said. "I don’t really care about the year before that. I don’t really care about the decade before that. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. So where are we now? What’s the best thing we can do to help our team? How can we get better yesterday, today, to play our best football a week from Saturday night? That’s really what it’s all about, so where we were or weren’t some other year, I mean who cares? It’s where we are now and what’s the best thing we can do. Whatever that is, then that’s what we’re going to try and do.
“We’re going to try, yesterday and today and Friday, we’re going to make these days as productive as we can or try to get as much out of them as we can,” he said. "There are a lot of things we’re trying to balance between preparation, corrections, new things, rest. I mean it’s a long list. In the end we’ll try to get the most out of them that we can. That’s what our job is. Whatever happens some other year, it doesn’t really matter.”

Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

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Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

Former Patriots defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois is signing with the Lions, according to Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports.

The 31-year-old had six tackles in six games for the Patriots in 2017. He'll reunite with ex-Patriots defensive coordinator and now Lions head coach Matt Patricia in Detroit.


What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

It’s one of the rites of spring. This is the time of year NFL fans across America overemphasize the importance of their team’s coach or general manager popping up at a particular program’s pro day. You can set your watch to it. 

Coach X showed up at University Y so you KNOW he wants Player Z!

The pro day circuit is just one aspect of the pre-draft preparation process for NFL clubs, though. The information gleaned from stops on college campuses through March and early April is, as Bill Belichick might say, just part of the evaluation mosaic. 

The tape matters. The combine matters. Private workouts matter. Official visits matter. Claiming a meeting or an interview between a player and a club at any one of these spots will dictate a draft-day match is foolhardy. 

Still . . . it's interesting to track teams’ whereabouts in order to see if any trends develop.

Here we'll lay out where the two primary players in the Patriots front office, Belichick and Nick Caserio, have been spotted over the last couple weeks since pro days kicked off. Their itinerary may be nothing but a sliver of a view into where the team's interests lay, but we’ll take that sliver with the understanding that it is what it is.


Belichick made his seemingly annual trip to the University of Alabama to catch up with old friend Nick Saban and see some of the college game's top prospects. The Crimson Tide could have more than a dozen players drafted, and most of their top prospects reside on the defensive side of the ball. Receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne shoild be long gone by the time the Patriots pick at No. 31, but there are plenty of other talented defenders they could have a shot at. Linebacker Rashaan Evans (6-foot-3, 234) would be an interesting fit for a defense that could use an addition to its second level. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (6-4, 297) is intriguing because of his versatility as a base end who could rush from the inside in sub situations. Safety Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 214) also seems like a Patriots type. Even punter JK Scott could be on their radar. 


Caserio headed to Wisconsin's pro day, where linebacker Jack Cichy posted a very strong short-shuttle (4.28 seconds) and three-cone times (7.10). He's an off-the-ball type who measured in at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds and is projected by to go on Day 3. The Badgers don't have quite as many pro prospects as Alabama, but they have seven or eight who could hear their names called on draft weekend. Corner Nick Nelson (5-11, 208) and edge defender Leon Jacobs (6-3, 230) were two of Wisconsin's best players, and would’ve been worth a look from the Patriots director of player personnel. 


Belichick kept a close eye on the defensive linemen participating in NC State's pro day Monday. Bradley Chubb is expected to be the first defensive player taken in the draft so the Patriots won't have a shot at him (which Belichick admitted to Chubb following the workout), but defensive tackle BJ Hill (6-4, 315) may have been of interest. He's thought of as a mid-rounder after a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Kentavius Street (6-2, 280) is really powerful as a defensive end and could be had toward the end of the draft. Belichick also reportedly spent some time watching backs Nyheim Hines (5-8, 197) and Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 233) run routes. 

Caserio, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the workout put together by Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside (6-2, 201). Our Mike Giardi put together a piece on Woodside, who tested well at the combine and is considered to have a good football IQ, earlier this offseason. Read it. Caserio was joined at Toledo by Patriots scout Patrick Stewart, who was also present for Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta's pro day.


Belichick went from NC State to South Carolina where he reportedly met with tight end Hayden Hurst for the second time. Hurst (6-4, 250), a walk-on who played two years of minor-league baseball, may be the first tight end taken in this year's draft. Linebacker Skai Moore (6-2, 221) was extremely productive for the Gamecocks, leading the team in tackles all four years of his career, which Belichick clearly appreciated. Moore told reporters after his pro day work out that he met with Belichick for an hour and that Belichick told him he's a great player. Belichick and Moore also met at the combine, Moore said.

So what can we make of Belichick and Caserio's stops thus far? We’re careful not to make too much of these stops visits, but here are some quick-hitting thoughts . . .

* They appear to want more information on the draft's second (or third) tier of quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that the Patriots won't be in the running to select passers like USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. But the group that includes Woodside, Lauletta and others -- perhaps Washington State's Luke Falk, whose pro day will be at Utah State on Mar. 28, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, and Western Kentucky's Mike White -- seems to be of interest.

* Are the Patriots looking for their next playmaker at tight end? Even with Rob Gronkowski on the roster (assuming he returns in 2018) the Patriots could use another pass-catcher at this spot. Their interest in Hurst is intriguing. If they pop up at South Dakota State's pro day on Mar. 30 -- home of Dallas Goedert -- then that might be an indication they are considering a running mate and heir apparent for Gronkowski. 

* Outside of offensive tackle, off-the-ball linebacker might be the biggest need the Patriots have not addressed via trade or free agency this offseason. It would come as little surprise if they opted for a rookie (or two) who play that position in this year's draft. Evans is among the draft's most talented at that spot, but there are some questions around the league as to whether or not he'd be the traffic cop that, for instance, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower have been for the Patriots. Getting a closer look at Cichy and Moore would also seem to indicate that New England is taking a close look at a newer (smaller) breed at that spot. Belichick has long liked bigger linebackers, but as the speed of the game picks up perhaps he’ll be more open to going small(ish) here. The Patriots were represented at Viriginia Tech's pro day on Mar. 14 (home of top linebacker prospect Tremaine Edmunds) and it'll be interesting to see if they show up at Boise State (home of Leighton Vander Esch) on April 3. Belichick is reportedly headed to Georgia's pro day on Wednesday, where he'll have a chance to see athletic off-the-ball 'backer Roquan Smith and athletic edge player Lorenzo Carter. Either would immediately provide the Patriots front-seven with a shot of athleticism. 

* That Belichick has seen a boatload of talented defensive linemen at Alabama and NC State isn't a shocker. While they may not have a glaring need up front for 2018 — especially after trading for Danny Shelton and signing Adrian Clayborn — both Shelton and Malcom Brown could be elsewhere in 2019 if the Patriots don't pick up their fifth-year options. Trey Flowers is also headed into a contract year.