McDaniels, Patriots agree: Belichick still has his fastball

McDaniels, Patriots agree: Belichick still has his fastball

HOUSTON -- By the time Robert Kraft poured cold water on the growing fire about him potentially conveying that an end to Bill Belichick’s career was in sight, the damage had been done. The football world was, briefly, imagining itself without its best coach. 

That day will obviously still come at some point, but to consider this the stretch-run of the 64-year-old Belichick’s career might still be quite hasty. 

If and when Belichick does retire, Josh McDaniels would make sense as his successor if McDaniels doesn’t depart before then. McDaniels said he can’t envision a day that Belichick, who has not had a year off from coaching in the NFL since 1975, spends his days on the golf course rather than the stadium. 

“I can’t. I can’t,” McDaniels repeated. “I just -- ever since I’ve known him, I’m trying to learn from him every day about a number of different things and he’s such a great teacher, mentor to all of us, great leader for our organization. It would be hard for me to picture that day. I hope he continues to do what he loves to do as long as he wants to.” 

McDaniels has worked under Belichick for a long time, coaching with the Patriots in various roles from 2001 through 2008 and then again from 2012 on. 

Yet when McDaniels thinks about his boss hanging up the hoodie, he comes off as someone who isn’t done learning from Belichick. 

“I’ve learned so much from him and he challenges us every single day,” McDaniels said. “He sets the bar high, the expectations for our organization and the standard are as high as they’ve ever been, and he pushes us to reach it. There’s no letup, that’s for sure, and I’m just excited to have the opportunity to work for him.”

The talk of no letup was echoed throughout the Patriots’ media availability at their team hotel Thursday. LeGarrette Blount called him “the same old Bill.”

“I don’t see him retiring no time soon,” Blount said, adding, “He’s still got everything that he had when he won the first championship. He still got it.”

A popular question asked to players Thursday was who they thought would retire first between Belichick and Tom Brady. Dont'a Hightower joked that “they might just go at the same time.” When it was asked to Brady, McDaniels could be heard walking by calling, “Not Tom!”

As usual, Matthew Slater was thoughtful on the subject of Belichick’s career wrapping up. He noted retirement is a fact of life, but was extra sure to convey that he doesn’t expect to have a new head coach in New England any time soon. 

“That’s really hard to imagine at this point,” Slater said. “That day comes for everyone, obviously. When it comes for him, I don’t know, but I think it’s a long, long, long, long ways away.” 

Phil Perry contributed to this report. 

Report: Slater returning to Patriots

Report: Slater returning to Patriots

Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater has signed a two-year deal to return to the team, according to an ESPN's Mike Reiss.

Slater had made a free-agent visit to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday. The seven-time Pro Bowl special teams ace, who turns 33 in September, has spent the past 10 seasons in a New England. Slater, one of the veteran leaders in the locker room, signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract extension in 2016.

The Patriots traded with the Oakland Raiders for kick returner/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson earlier this week to bolster their special teams.


Report: New catch rule coming to NFL

Report: New catch rule coming to NFL

A new catch rule is coming to the NFL.

So, controversies such as the Jesse James' touchdown reversal in the Steelers' loss to the Patriots in December and the Kelvin Benjamin call in the Bills-Pats game a week later likely would have resulted in upheld TDs under the new rule.

According to the Washington Post, Troy Vincent, the NFL VP of football operations, said competition committee members plan to propose getting rid of portions of the rule related to a receiver going to the ground while making a catch and to slight movement of the football while it’s in the receiver’s hands. Vincent also said the committee also intends to raise the bar by which an on-field ruling of a catch could be overturned via replay review.

That apparently was what was done in Super Bowl 52, when the Eagles' Corey Clement's juggling TD catch was not overturned via replay. 

“We worked backward,” said Vincent told the Post. “We looked at plays and said: Do you want that to be a catch? And then we applied that to the rule.”

The rule modifications could be approved by the competition committee as early Tuesday, the Post reported, and owners will meet next week in Orlando to vote on it. Rule changes must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 franchises. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been pushing for the catch rule to be modified.