Belichick missed Bennett dancing with cheerleaders: 'We'll have to get a replay'

Belichick missed Bennett dancing with cheerleaders: 'We'll have to get a replay'

Martellus Bennett wanted to party. The nine-year veteran had just stamped his first trip to the Super Bowl, and he was going to celebrate by doing things that would be quintessential "Football Marty." 


He grabbed some pom-poms and danced with Patriots cheerleaders.

He planned to Facetime his brother Michael, Pro Bowl defensive lineman for the Seahawks, and talk trash. "Now I’m going to the Super Bowl, mother[expletive]. Meet me in Houston."

He talked about how he'd do some baking. "Making myself a cake, and I am going to write, 'You're awesome' on the cake, and sit there, and I'll probably eat the whole thing and regret it tomorrow because I have to make sure I make weight."

It wasn't a typical reaction to making it to the final game of the season, not for a locker room half-full with players who have been there before. But it was genuine. And even Patriots coach Bill Belichick, often thought of as the no-fun police captain headquartered at Gillette Stadium, those kinds of emotions were worth appreciating.

"Yeah, I missed all of the dancing with the cheerleaders. Sorry. We’ll have to get a replay on that," Belichick said on a conference call Monday. "But you know, I’d say just in general . . . obviously it was a great win for our team and our organization last night, but it’s great to see the players who have worked so hard take so much satisfaction in their relationship with their teammates and the goal that they accomplished last night.

"Another step in a season where the team has already won 16 games but it was another significant step. When you see them reacting and congratulating each other and celebrating like that, you know you have a closeness on the team that is special. I mentioned that last night and it’s true. These guys, they work hard.

"They put up with a lot from me and they put up with a lot of significant demands and requirements here, but it’s done with the intent to try and produce a good product and a good team. They buy into it. They perform well in critical situations like last night. I take a lot of satisfaction in seeing them achieve that because they’ve worked so hard for it and I think they deserve it, but you’ve got to go out and prove it."

In order to emphasize the point that the Patriots had proved it, that they were more than a group of hard-workers, Belichick referenced a book by Jerry Izenberg that tracked the Giants for a week in 1989 -- when Belichick was defensive coordinator -- titled "No Medals for Trying." 

"This time of year everybody tries hard," Belichick said. "Everybody has a good team that is still playing. You’re only rewarded for achievement. Last night we were fortunate enough to earn that. It’s a great feeling to see everybody have that kind of interaction with each other and feel so good about their teammates and the guys they’ve worked so hard with."

Curran: Ranking the Patriots free-agent imports so far

Curran: Ranking the Patriots free-agent imports so far

Did you know today (Tuesday) is the International Day of Happiness?

Cheese, willow trees, pool basketball in the pool, a newly-mowed-lawn and briefly turning off my headlights while driving down a dark, narrow street to scare my passengers. Those are things that make me happy.

It’s good timing.

The first few days of NFL free agency (and the legalized flirting that preceded it) created a level of unhappiness in New England because of all the exports.

All made stupid money that the Patriots really couldn’t ante up, but the contributions of Nate Solder, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Butler were such that a shrug and “What are ya gonna do...?” would have been an insufficient response.
So there was flipping out.

But in honor of IDOH, let’s look at imports and rank them in order of projected usefulness. It’s a happy exercise because there’s upside to each of the six signings.

A league source told me this is a Patriots 1.0 type of signing – one of those high-character players who has a well-defined strength as an edge-setter/pass-rusher. When the Patriots brought in James Harrison at the end of the 2017 season, that was their acknowledgment they didn’t have a complementary edge player opposite Trey Flowers. Clayborn’s a decade younger than Harrison, has been durable and – at 6-3, 280 – has plenty of size to bow up when attacked on the ground. The team never sufficiently replaced Rob Ninkovich and Chris Long last year (their planned move of Dont'a Hightower to the edge went kaput when he had to move back to linebacker and then got hurt). Clayborn should help do that.

McCourty was having one of the best seasons of a good career in Cleveland before an ankle injury in practice knocked him out of action last October. So, it stands to reason that there’s plenty left in the tank for Devin McCourty’s twin brother as he joins the Patriots on a very manageable deal ($3 million). He’s a free agent at the end of the year. The Super Bowl was an embarrassment for the Patriots defense. For reasons still unexplained, the team couldn’t risk putting a former Pro Bowl corner who’d played 98 percent of his team’s snaps all year on the field. And the resulting Malcolm Butler Shuffle which put Patrick Chung out of position and Jordan Richards and Jonathan Bademosi on the field cost the team a title. It boils down to Bill Belichick not believing he could count on Butler. Whatever. Jason McCourty’s an Eagle Scout, he’s never played in a playoff game and he’s happy to be in New England. He could be equal to or better than Eric Rowe and his presence – along with Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones – gives the team nice corner depth.  

This is like the McCourty deal in a way. Just as Patriots patience ran out with Butler, so too did it run out with Alan Branch. And vice versa, it seemed to me. The offbeat Branch was an incredibly impactful and valuable defensive tackle for the Patriots. Belichick gushed about how Branch was far-and-away their most impactful defensive lineman in 2016. And by 2017 he was a healthy scratch several times and was in street clothes for the Super Bowl while LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi ran wild. Shelton is a decade younger and while he’s smaller than the 6-6, 350-pound Branch (Shelton’s “just” 6-2, 335), he also isn’t world/NFL-weary in the same way Branch seemed to be. As the 12th overall pick in 2015, Shelton didn’t make the impact expected there. We’ve heard scheme and the Browns’ general suckitude as being the reason, but some of it has to come back to Shelton too who – Cleveland writers told me – has a tendency to lose technique in games and wear down. Huge upside potential at a position of need.

Kick returners have diminishing importance in the NFL thanks to the rule changes of the past few years but they aren’t extinct yet. And Patterson is among the most explosive in the league. Dion Lewis had a 103-yard kickoff return last year. He averaged 21.1 on his other 22 returns. Patterson averaged 26.3He can also cover punts which the Patriots will need if they intend to let Matt Slater go. His presence on offense will command attention as a gadget guy (jet sweeps, jailbreak screens) and downfield decoy. He also has had some ballhandling issues so that’s worth watching as well.

Tobin was a walk-on at the University of Iowa. He was an undrafted free agent that made the Eagles in 2013. I mention this as proof the guy – who has now spent five seasons in the NFL – has a penchant for doing more than anticipated. The 6-foot-6 Tobin isn’t going to replace Nate Solder. I don’t think the Patriots are pretending that he can. But with Solder gone and Cam Fleming/La’Adrian Waddle both still free agents, the Patriots need reinforcements not just at starter but as depth. Tobin will serve as that. Greg Bedard at the Boston Sports Journal (subscription required) went deep on Tobin. In short, Matt Tobin draws a shrug from me.

Poor Jeremy Hill. The fumble Pittsburgh’s Ryan Shazier forced Hill to commit in the 2016 AFC Divisional Playoffs led to impossibly anguished wailing from Hill and a satisfyingly painful loss for Hill’s detestable Bengals. It also allowed the Patriots to defeat the just-as-loathsome Steelers in the AFC Championship a week later. None of that has anything to do with what Hill may bring to the Patriots. But the fumble perhaps led to the drafting of Joe Mixon last April which led to Hill realizing his Cincy days were numbered and may have led to his deciding to have ankle surgery which Marvin Lewis strongly disagreed with Hill having. Hill, 25, comes to the Patriots as a goal-line, short-yardage threat who scored 29 touchdowns in 46 games for Cincy before last year’s abbreviated, low-impact season. He’ll either be better than Mike Gillislee or worse and the guy who loses that showdown and probably gets released. 



Eric Ebron signs two-year deal with Colts

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Eric Ebron signs two-year deal with Colts

Former Lions tight end Eric Ebron is signing a two-year deal worth $15 million with the Colts, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Ebron was rumored to be a potential target for the Patriots, especially after new Pats running back Jeremy Hill tried recruiting him to the team.

The 24-year-old had 53 receptions for 574 yards and four touchdowns a season ago with Detroit.