Patriots

As he turns 67, Bill Belichick shows no signs of slowing down

As he turns 67, Bill Belichick shows no signs of slowing down

There are few advantages to being slow at getting your work done.

But if you’re a writer covering the Patriots, there is one.

In the fall and early winter, long after the sun sets, writers who suck at being fast will exit the media room at Gillette Stadium and take a right toward the “blue gate.”

About 30 feet later, they’ll pass alongside a brick wall with narrow windows about eight feet up. You can’t really see anything that’s going on in there – the angle from the ground means you’re just looking up at the room’s ceiling.

But some nights, often around 7:30 p.m., there’s a head in the window. It’s Bill Belichick’s. It’s clear by the bob of his head, he’s on a treadmill.

The machine is obviously set to a modest pace. Not glacial but it can’t be high-intensity-interval-training going on, either. There are no headphones, if I recall correctly.

His expression is as dour as you’d expect. I don’t think he can see us passersby as we scurry past, half-smirking, half-scared to get caught looking.

It’s wholly unremarkable. There may be a thousand older gentlemen on treadmills at 7:30 on a fall evening all around New England.

But none of them are greatest coach in NFL history plodding along, 13 or 14 hours after they arrived at the office. His record is unmatched. His legend is secure. His poker face and hooded sweatshirt are iconic as Landry’s hat, Shula’s jaw, Noll’s windbreaker and the gap between Lombardi’s front teeth.

He’s got nothing to prove, nobody to impress. And he just grinds on.

It won’t surprise me if the treadmills are moved, the windows are shaded or my eyes are sewn shut now that I’ve revealed this. But I take the risk because today – Tuesday, April 16 – Bill Belichick turns 67. And it’s moments like that when you contemplate what makes him tick. What makes him different. What still drives him?

And you wonder how long he will keep plodding on, a 5-foot-10, barrel-bodied, grandfather who has been by turns respected, reviled and revered.

A decade ago, he snorted at the idea of coaching into his 70s “like Marv Levy” (though that may well have been a passive-aggressive shot at Levy who Belichick was not a fan of back in the day).

Now, 70 is on the horizon and – having entered the NFL in 1975 – 50 years in the league isn’t really that absurdly far off either. One of the few people on the planet who knows when Belichick’s current contract runs through – Robert Kraft – said last March that he hoped Belichick coaches “until his 80s.”

This is the time of year that actually reinforces how far away retirement seems for Belichick. There is just a full-on annual embrace of this process, it seems, between getting out to colleges to press flesh and scout talent, working the draft, manipulating trades then bringing in a crop of rookie players, putting them on the field and teaching them.  

Mike Shanahan, who’ll turn 67 later this year, has been out of active coaching since 2013. He is still in it, unofficially, through his son, Kyle, the 49ers head coach. As a peer and close friend of Belichick for about 35 years, he seemed a good bet to give perspective on Belichick.

“For me, it was never work,” Shanahan said Monday from Colorado. “You get up early and you stay late and you just got used to those hours. You enjoyed the game so much you didn’t get tired of it.

“I don’t think everybody really enjoys the game in its finest details the way Bill does,” Shanahan added. “He enjoys having the edge on everybody that he goes against. In-season or offseason. How he attacks a game. How he attacks personnel. He wants his organization to be the best, top-to-bottom and to leave no stone unturned because there are people expecting that.”

In Ian O’Connor’s book Belichick, it was related that all one needed to do was tell Belichick the date and time of day and he’d be able to tell say where he’d be and what he’d be doing. That’s how much the NFL calendar is a part of his routine.

I asked Shanahan why that repetitiveness wouldn’t get boring.

“You realize this game is day by day and everybody looks at the next season,” Shanahan explained. “Bill’s approaching it that way has probably helped (keep it fresh). I imagine he thinks, ‘If I want to win games or win championships, I better take care of business today,’ and I think he’s always done that when it comes to everything – free agency, draft, putting his staff together, changing defenses or changing an offensive scheme you have to constantly be on top of it.”

Maybe what “drives” Belichick to keep going is that coaching, for him, requires no drive at all. It isn’t drudgery. It isn’t tedious. It isn’t ever really the same. And the sour parts – press conferences, for instance – are offset and then some by the teaching, the building, the learning and the competition.

And the use of a state-of-the-art treadmill. At any time of day.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin describes introductory FaceTimes with Tom Brady

Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin describes introductory FaceTimes with Tom Brady

Tom Brady is already making a point to get to know his new teammates in Tampa Bay.

The former New England Patriots quarterback had one request after signing with the Buccaneers last week, and that was all of his teammates' phone numbers. One particular player he's already reached out to is one of his new favorite targets, Chris Godwin.

In a recent interview with Ros Gold-Onwude of The Boardroom, Godwin detailed the dynamic of his first FaceTime conversations with Brady.

Click here for complete Tom Brady coverage and download the MyTeams App for the latest news and analysis

“Really it’s literally just getting to know each other,” Godwin told Gold-Onwude. “Just early introductory things. Just trying to get a feel for who we are as people more than anything else. Like we didn’t talk ball or anything, really just about how excited we both are to play with each other.”

“For me, I’m just going to learn," he added. “You know, learn as much as I can from somebody who’s arguably the G.O.A.T., and I’m just ready to roll.”

The learning curve probably won't be all that steep for Godwin, who broke out in a big way last season for the Bucs. The 24-year-old was one of the top wide receivers in all of football, tallying 121 catches for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns.

Godwin went on to describe his initial reaction to Brady -- who's been in the league since Godwin was four years old -- becoming his new QB.

“At first it was a little weird, cause it’s like I feel like it’s someone I’ve watched my entire life, Godwin said. "Like you said, he’s my colleague now so past the initial interaction it’s like alright, cool. This is starting to feel a little more normal now.”

You can watch the full interview below:

Godwin happens to wear No. 12 for the Bucs, but recently said he'll give it up to TB12 if the six-time Super Bowl champion asks for it.

Patriots WR N'Keal Harry already seems to be embracing the underdog role

Patriots WR N'Keal Harry already seems to be embracing the underdog role

Over the course of the New England Patriots' dynasty, NFL fans learned a valuable lesson: never count the Patriots out.

But with Tom Brady leaving after 20 years to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that has quickly changed. Suddenly, the Pats are perceived as underdogs.

It isn't difficult to see why. The quarterback position now is a real area of concern, and several key contributors from 2019 have departed in free agency.

Click here for complete Tom Brady coverage and download the MyTeams App for the latest news and analysis

Pats wide receiver N'Keal Harry, however, doesn't seem worried. The 2019 first-round pick took to Twitter on Saturday with a message for the doubters.

The 22-year-old certainly isn't lacking in confidence.

If the Patriots are to exceed expectations without Brady, Harry will be counted on to be a focal point in the offense. New England's wide receiver depth chart currently consists of Harry, Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, and Jakobi Meyers. There's also a strong chance the position is addressed again via the draft, which takes place next month.

The real question is who will be throwing the ball to Harry when the 2020 NFL season kicks off. Right now, 2019 fourth-rounder Jarrett Stidham is the odds-on favorite to be Brady's successor.

Harry tallied 12 receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns in seven games during his rookie campaign.