FOXBORO - It's been a pile-on-the-Patriots kind of week.
First, it was Cassius Marsh, the defensive end who had a cup of coffee with the team last year. Now a member of the 49ers, Marsh made it known (more than once) that he didn't have much fun in his time in New England.
Then it was Eagles offensive lineman Brandon Brooks, formerly of the Texans, who criticized the Patriots way of doing things as he understood it as a player under former Pats assistant Bill O'Brien in Houston.
The message from both was, essentially, it's miserable playing in that kind of program.
It's a sentiment that isn't exactly new. About a year ago Dont'a Hightower, a Patriots captain, described playing under Belichick (and, for what it's worth, Nick Saban at Alabama) as ”hell."
- MORE PATRIOTS - What to watch for at OTAs
Here's his quote in full.
“I’m very lucky and blessed. It’s worth it, but it’s been hell," he said. "And I’d be lying I said anything different. Nick and Bill were obviously close friends when they coached together in Cleveland. It doesn’t surprise me how much success they have whenever you look at how much they live, breathe and die football. They’re literally the exact same.”
It's worth it because of the winning. But the winning is a product, at least in part, of the "hellish" experience.
Before Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium, I asked Belichick if it's important to him to find ways for players to feel like they're enjoying themselves as they go through the rigors of the program.
His reply was predictable.
"What we feel is important to us is to win," he said. "So, that's really what we're trying to do."
Belichick will, however, do some things that players like. They'll see a movie in training camp. They'll give an offensive lineman a chance to catch a punt to get the team out of doing running. They'll have special guests visit the facilities, as they did on Wednesday when Kobe Bryant showed up.
"I have a ton of respect for Kobe," Belichick said. "Obviously a great, great player. Had a great career. Spent the day with him yesterday. He had a lot of great observations and things we can learn from. He's a tremendous guy."
Sure it's tough. And relative to how other programs are run, Belichick's style may seem brutal. But when the results are good, that's all the enjoyment some players need.
As Jerod Mayo said on Quick Slants earlier this week: "Winning is fun."