There's a sign every player sees when they leave the New England Patriots' facility.
It says, "Ignore the noise."
Starting in OTAs and minicamp, Bill Belichick's message to the team is always consistent. It’s, "Look, the media is out there to do a job. They have their stories they’re going to write. But our job is not to give them what they want. Our job is to stay consistent."
It’s a business-like environment: You go in and you get your work done, and when he says we’re turning the page to the next opponent, he truly means that.
But in terms of bulletin board material, if somebody is vocal about attacking a certain aspect of the Patriots -- a weakness or where they think they can expose us -- he’ll absolutely read those quotes to the team.
It’s not overboard and it’s not blown out of proportion. But it's his way of letting the team know, "This is what the opponent thinks of you."
We've already seen it this season.
Before the Jets' game against the Patriots, Sam Darnold said something like, “We’ve got to go out there and find their weakness."
That's just a common term most people use, but then you hear the Patriots' defense after the game say things like, ”I’m glad our weaknesses didn’t show up today.”
So, they obviously used that as a motivational tool to get themselves in the right frame of mind for the game.
He’ll absolutely read those quotes to the team. It's his way of letting the team know, "This is what the opponent thinks of you."
People are going to say things all the time. When I took over for Tom Brady in 2008, Steelers linebacker Joey Porter said something like, “Cassel’s not worth his s---.”
But it is what it is. The thing that New England does a great job of is focusing your attention on the opponent. Their strengths and weaknesses and how you're going to attack them this week: that’s the focal point.
It’s not about all the extracurriculars and all the extra stuff that’s said in the media. You’ve got your occasional bulletin board material, but as long as you know the approach and you’re consistent with it, then you're able to do a better job of ignoring the noise.
It's not like that in other organizations. I played for Rex Ryan in Buffalo, and on the first day of offseason workouts, he came in and said, "Our goal -- you can say it from Day 1 when they ask you -- is to win the Super Bowl."
He didn't restrict players when they talked to the media. He was like, "This is our goal, and if you want to say it, you can say it."
In New England, you feel a bit restricted at times in what you say.
But you come to appreciate it, because it’s a consistent message throughout the organization. You’re not dealing with the outside distractions of, “This guy just said some outlandish comment," and now multiple players get asked about something one of your teammates said.
There are limitations to the distractions the Patriots have when dealing with the media because of their approach and consistency.
Everybody in that organization understands it, so you don’t get the same bulletin board material coming out of New England that you see elsewhere.
That's because it starts at the top with Bill’s approach and consistency, and literally permeates throughout the entire organization.
Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.
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