Bill Belichick looking forward to being involved in the cause for social justice

Bill Belichick looking forward to being involved in the cause for social justice

Last week, I wrote that it was “fair to wonder” how forceful Bill Belichick would be in support of social justice causes during the racial reckoning we are witnessing Tuesday night, Belichick made a statement about it. And now it’s fair to follow up on that. 

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Speaking during a virtual event honoring safety Devin McCourty and raising funds for an organization McCourty has partnered with called “Boston Uncornered,” Belichick said he would “increase” his role in supporting social justice. McCourty, Belichick said, was his inspiration for doing so. 

"Conversations across our country and within our team will help lead to paving the way for a better future,” Belichick said, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “Following your lead, and the example of other incredible men on our team, I look forward to increasing my role in this process. Healthy discussion leads to actions. And actions that you have brought to the forefront have resulted in progress."

Belichick did enable conversations within the team last week. After my column was posted, a nugget was dropped saying that Belichick was “a part of discussions” during virtual team meetings. Matthew Slater told Phil Perry on the Next Pats Podcast that Belichick was open to the talks and listened. It was reported that Belichick had Rashaan Hall, director of the ACLU’s racial justice program in Massachusetts, speak to the team. 

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It was a cascade of nuggets and round of public congratulations followed. But for one player, there was still some ambiguity as to how far Belichick would go. 

He wondered if the column I wrote would make Belichick say something publicly. When I followed up about Belichick’s role in the team conversations, he said: “I don’t know his personal thoughts, but he definitely let the discussion go on.”

Tuesday night’s statement is a concrete, public representation of where Belichick stands. 

I heard it Friday and I’m sure to hear it again today and for the rest of the week. “Bill Belichick doesn’t owe anyone an explanation, statement or vow.”

Well, that’s easy for you to say. Whether he “owed” it or not, where he stood and what he would do to help was something some of his players wanted to know.

Tuesday night, Belichick DID say something. He didn’t rend his garments. But he did pledge greater involvement.

Will that be vocal? The weight of Belichick’s words is greater than anybody else in the NFL, almost anyone in the country. 

He’s 68. He grew up in Annapolis. His respect and devotion to the Naval Academy, his sense of history, his pride in America are all well-documented. For 45 years, he’s worked in an industry unlike any other when it comes to racial dynamics. His “brand” is hard work, discipline, preparation, doing one’s job and not seeking fanfare, limelight or congratulations. 

There’s a disconnect between what players are protesting for – racial justice – and what their protests are being bastardized to represent – disrespecting the flag, the anthem or the military. 

I can’t think of any voice that would speak to Americans resistant to understanding the difference than Bill Belichick’s. 

Does Belichick “increasing his role” mean he’d go that far? I don’t know. But on Tuesday night, a good, powerful and persuasive man said he was in. No qualifiers. And the fair thing to do is highlight it.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Training camp position battles to watch

Patriots Talk Podcast: Training camp position battles to watch

Finally, the New England Patriots are back on the field at Gillette Stadium.

The new-look Pats had their first practice of 2020 on Wednesday, which means training camp position battles are officially underway. The obvious position battle in camp will be at the quarterback position between Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham, but there are many more intriguing battles to keep an eye on.

In a brand new Patriots Talk Podcast, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry break down the positions where these battles will take place.

Patriots Talk Podcast - Training Camp Preview: Burning Questions. Bold Predictions | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

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Perry named the Patriots' three most notable position battles, starting with the QB position. While it's technically a battle between Newton and Stidham, some believe it's a foregone conclusion Newton will be the Week 1 starter.

"You have the quarterback spot with Cam vs. Stidham. Let's move past that, we've talked enough about that, we both think Cam is going to win the job. Not a real battle, per se," Perry said.

"Let's go back to the outside linebackers. This is a four-way cage match between Chase Winovich, Anfernee Jennings, Shilique Calhoun, and Brandon Copeland. My guy is going to be Anfernee Jennings, but I do think that's a battle. Whatever that opposite John Simon edge spot is called, somebody's got to fill it.

"Number three, let's talk special teams ... who is your returner? Is it Kyle Dugger, your first draft pick in this year's draft? Is it J.J. Taylor? Fun as hell to watch, would be fun as hell to watch in the kicking game. Or is it last year's guy, Gunner [Olszewski]? They don't want to give it to Julian Edelman, we know that, so one of those three guys I think will win it."

For Curran, it's a newly-added safety who will have his attention in camp.

"I'm going to head over to the secondary for the position battle that I'm interested to watch," Curran said. "I have a good feeling of who's going to shine there and it's my defensive dark horse for this camp and this season -- it's going to be Adrian Phillips at the safety spot holding off a young Kyle Dugger.

"I think Adrian Phillips is going to be an absolute eye-opener at the safety position ... Adrian Phillips is a talented player, he's closer to [Patrick] Chung than he is Devin McCourty. He's going to be a really good player for the Patriots this year. But I'm going to be real interested to see how Dugger competes ... he's an athletic unicorn."

Curran and Perry also discuss the burning questions surrounding the Patriots, why the Pats should explore using the triple option, bold predictions for the 2020 season, and much more.

Check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or on YouTube.

Patriots' 2020 draft pick Dustin Woodard retires before rookie season

Patriots' 2020 draft pick Dustin Woodard retires before rookie season

One of the New England Patriots' 2020 draft picks has decided to retire before his rookie season began.

The team announced Thursday it has placed offensive lineman Dustin Woodard on the reserve/retired list.

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Woodard, who played college football at the University of Memphis, was selected by the Patriots in the seventh round (230th overall) of April's draft. The 22-year-old center/guard was one of three offensive linemen taken by the Patriots in the 2020 draft, along with guard Michael Onwenu (sixth round) and tackle Justin Herron (sixth round).

Why is Woodard retiring? ESPN's Mike Reiss reported additional details:

The Patriots signed center Tyler Gauthier on Wednesday in a move that adds some depth to the position following Woodard's retirement. Woodard had a chance to make the roster as the backup center behind starter David Andrews.