Curran's NFL notes: The hotter the better for Belichick

Curran's NFL notes: The hotter the better for Belichick

FOXBORO - There will be greenhouse conditions at Gillette Stadium on Sunday for the team’s first practice since the Saints game Thursday night. It will be a true “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” day and that really doesn’t bother Bill Belichick at all. He wants to see work during nasty conditions.

Thursday night, after the win over the Saints, Belichick said, “We had a good level of heat. There were a good amount of longer drives on both sides. There were times that we were out there for eight, nine, 10 plays defensively and then there were a few times when we were out there for eight, or nine, or 10 plays offensively. Those longer drives are really where players build their conditioning; they build their stamina, so it was good to have a few of those. I think the players themselves could see after three, four, five plays, you know OK, but then at nine, 10, especially when you’re running off the field with substitutions like you have to do against the Saints to matchup against their offense or what we do offensively, using different personnel combinations. You combine that running on and off the field with a longer drive [and] I think that was definitely a good evaluation of our conditioning tonight and I wouldn’t say it was bad, but it certainly can be better. We need to continue to work on that. Tonight was a good night for us to see where we’re at on that front.”

There will be no significant letup this week as the Bears come to town for joint practices on Tuesday and Wednesday. Temperatures will be in the mid-to-high 80s all week.

The Bills committed 47 penalties in the first four games of 2015 and tied for the most penalties in the league with Tampa Bay (143). They were back at it again Saturday night against with 11 flags in a 19-18 loss to Indy. 

Rex Ryan’s opening statement regarding the penalties, though? Stream-of-consciousness, word waterfall.

“Man, there were so many positives in this game. It was exciting for me to see the way our guys competed,” Ryan began. “Obviously we didn’t do our end as a football team. The mistakes that we made, I pointed out to our team, it’s like we have to turn the page on that, that was last year’s team and we can’t have that. We’ve been working extremely hard about some of those penalties we saw. We had four offside penalties and that was upsetting to me. I think we had three on special teams, so that blueprint was what last year’s blueprint was. As a team, there isn’t anybody in there that’s happy with that performance just because of that.”

Flags fly excessively in the preseason anyway. Half the roster is there on temporary employment and the officials call things pretty closely to set the tone and get their own work in. It’s just the tone of Ryan’s remarks that make you chuckle because you know he’s going to be standing there at a Bills podium saying the same thing about being happy with the effort, upset about the penalties and committed to having it not happen again. And then it will happen again.  

Ryan also channeled Gisele in praising the work of his quarterbacks: “I loved the way our quarterbacks played. It might not be reflected in the quarterback ratings but I don’t know, we had four or five drops but the quarterbacks can’t throw it and catch it.”

The Bills are already taking on water defensively in terms of personnel. They were already going to be without rookie defensive end Shaq Lawson for the first month of the season after he had post-draft shoulder surgery. Now, they’ve lost rookie linebacker Reggie Ragland to an ACL. Both players were ticketed to be Day 1 starters by GM Doug Whaley 

As a chaser, the team lost linebacker IK Enempkali Saturday night to what Ryan described as a “major” knee injury. Veteran DE Manny Lawson hasn’t participated yet in training camp with a pectoral injury. All of that is bad for business. The Patriots face the Bills in Week 4.

Jared Goff experienced shoulder stiffness and Carson Wentz fractured his ribs, so the quarterbacks who went 1 and 2 to the Rams and Eagles are already in different levels of disrepair after their first preseason game. In relation to Goff, that’s just the kind of thing that would make a head coach’s hands sweat, especially after four seasons in charge and 27 wins to show for it. But the head coach for the Rams is Jeff Fisher and he’s the sideline equivalent of a Supreme Court Justice appointment, so he’s going to get a contract extension soon.  

Fisher enjoys most-favored nation status with the NFL so Rams owner Stan Kroenke – who has the league to thank for puppeteering the Rams move to LA – knows Fisher is a shrewd guy to keep around even if he’s forever .500. 


Change to pass-interference rule is WAY overdue

AP Photo

Change to pass-interference rule is WAY overdue

Yes, please, on the proposed adjustment to defensive pass interference. No, thank you on the revised catch rule.

And I know I'm going to have my dreams crushed on both counts.

Despite all the arm-flapping and breath wasted that "NOBODY KNOWS WHAT A CATCH IS ANYMORE!!!!", long-distance pass interference has been a bigger bugaboo for the league for a much longer time.

In 2017, there were 129 pass interference calls longer than 15 yards. The proposed rule change that will be debated at next week's NFL Annual Meeting will make pass interference a 15-yard penalty unless it's egregious and intentional. In those cases, it will continue to be a spot foul

So overdue. For too long offenses have been rewarded by officials on 50-50 balls where DBs and receivers engage in subtle handfighting. It's absolutely illogical to expect middle-aged officials in okay (or worse) shape to keep pace with Gronk-sized receivers and whippet-quick defenders, then make calls on plays 40 yards downfield.

If you're going to throw a flag that gives the offense 40 yards, there should be an extreme degree of certainty accompanies that flag. And too often, the officials are forced to make educated guesses. Next thing you know, Joe Flacco and Rex Grossman are in the Super Bowl.

It's probably the most difficult penalty to call in football, yet it carries the greatest punishment for a defense? What sense does that make? 

I actually think the NFL should go a step beyond and make pass interference reviewable. I'll even make this concession -- it's reviewable only for DPI that puts the ball inside the 10 and is longer than 15 yards. How's that?

"More reviews?!?!? We don't need more reviews?!?!?!"

Okay, but you'll accept them when a dimwit coach argues a spot on a three-yard run that may or may not mean a first down, but not on a play that hands the offense half the field? Come on. Forward thinking.

As for the contention corners are going to begin bludgeoning receivers once they realize they're being beaten deep -- BAM! -- that's where you get the aggravated pass interference (API . . . trademarked 2018) that can be dropped on their heads.

A DB that doesn't turn to face the ball and runs through a receiver? An arm bar all the way downfield preventing a receiver from getting his hands up? A way-too-early arrival? That's API and it's a spot foul. What are the possible negative consequences?

It will now spawn debate as to what's aggravated PI and just garden variety PI. And it asks officials to make another judgment call.

But the truth is, it already is -- in many cases -- a judgment call. And if I were an official reaching for my flag on a Hail Mary from the 43 at the end of the game where there was jostling, I'd sure as hell be happy that I have the option to call garden variety PI and put the ball at the 28 rather than put the ball at the 1.

It's a rule change that makes the game better. That way you don't have calls like this or this. This 55-yarder would be an API (defender hugs Crabtree).

Tellingly, there's no outcry about the need to reform pass interference NOW like there is about the catch rule. You know what needs to happen? A few more plays like this where the Patriots profit. Then you'll see a damn MOVEMENT!


Pro day circuit shows Belichick in his element

Pro day circuit shows Belichick in his element

Bill Belichick is a teacher. His father was a teacher. His mother was a teacher. He is very much their son in that regard. 

The glimpses into Belichick's essence aren't as rare as you might think, but they still generate an inordinate amount of interest because he's arguably the best to ever execute the kind of teaching he's made his life's work.

Every time he takes several minutes to answer a conference call or press conference question thoughtfully, the hundreds of words found in the text of the transcribed answer typically create a stir on Twitter. NFL Films productions that show Belichick operating behind the scenes are devoured. Exclusive interviews, where he shares his insight on individual games and matchups, NFL Films productions that show Belichick operating behind the scenes are devoured. Exclusive interviews, where he shares his insight on individual games and matchups, make every installment of the ‘Do Your Job’ series a must-watch.

Clips of Belichick on the practice field aren't necessarily hard to find, there just aren't many of them considering how many practices he's run over the course of his decades-long career. But thanks to more lax media policies at the college programs he visits for pro days, video of his on-the-field work pops up on a regular basis this time of year. They are mini-clinics dotting the internet. 

This is Belichick in his element. Even in the middle of a random university campus. Even with scouts, coaches and front-office people from around the league watching his every move. Whether he's coaching players one-on-one or three or four at a time, Belichick is imparting his wisdom on eager close-to-blank slates. All the while he's trying to evaluate how they're absorbing what he's giving them. Do they pay attention? How do they process information? Are they error-repeaters? 

It's a fascinating give-and-take between the 60-something coach trying to build a roster and the 20-something players trying to make one, some of whom hadn't yet hit kindergarten when Belichick won his first ring in New England. And he seems to enjoy it. 

Here's a quick look at some of what Belichick has been up to the last few days at Georgia, South Carolina and NC State.