Patriots

Patriots' Bill Belichick stays perfectly on-brand at NFL meetings

Patriots' Bill Belichick stays perfectly on-brand at NFL meetings

PHOENIX -- Bill Belichick didn’t break character during his 43-minute media session at the NFL Coaches Breakfast Tuesday morning at the Arizona Biltmore.

It was a painful shrug-a-thon that, thanks to the intrepid calculating of The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, we know included 116 questions, 1,790 words, 21 “We’ll sees” and 13 “I don’t knows.”

It’s a rite of early spring for Belichick and the media that covers him regularly. The most accomplished coach in NFL history, the guy who forgets more about football in a night of sleep than we will ever know, dummies up.

It’s tedious, it’s not productive but, as Belichick himself would say, it is what it is. And it’s not worth anyone taking personally.

My theory on why expansive, forthright, candid and insightful Bill Belichick can show up for the week of the Super Bowl but not for this event is that he regards that week as an earned privilege that -- at its core -- is about the game on the field, the players and the coaches.

The owners meetings are a week of schmoozing and gasbagging in which economics and initiatives are ceaselessly discussed NFL suits who are “around” the game but not “in” the game. The game is the product. And this is where the product is tinkered with.

It’s as if Belichick’s the lifelong resident of a neighborhood that’s being incrementally gentrified every year and he’s then summoned by the people who are doing the gentrifying to say a few words at the association meeting.

He’s not going to play along.

That’s one theory. Another is that offseason conversation is generally about speculation and hypotheticals. The only thing Belichick hates more than speculation and hypotheticals is the Jets.

So questions about how much longer he’ll coach or when Tom Brady’s contract might get redone or how the loss of one player or another will be mitigated are summarily cuffed down one after the other.

Belichick never sat down during his session. My theory on that? He doesn’t like having a pile of tape recorders, phones and microphones set up under his chin and he likes even less when people swoop in, drop a tape recorder in front of him mid-session then, after a few minutes, pluck it up and walk away. It’s rude.

The image of Billy the Bulldozer clearing recording devices out of his way in 2016 remains an all-timer.

So Belichick standing back from the table and speaking in a normal voice in a crowded room with about 300 other chattering people ensured amusing optics and bad acoustics.

When the session ended and we all headed for the buffet, reporters from other markets would stop us and shake their heads sympathetically.

“Why does he have to be like that?” is a general question.

The general answer? Because that’s how he is sometimes. Does it make the job a little harder? Sure. But we’ll live.

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Saquon Barkley injury: Giants star (ankle) could miss Patriots matchup

Saquon Barkley injury: Giants star (ankle) could miss Patriots matchup

The New York Giants may have to face the defending champions without their best offensive player.

Giants running back Saquon Barkley is expected to miss "several weeks" with a high ankle sprain he suffered Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Monday.

Dr. Jess Flynn speculated that Barkley will be sidelined for four to six weeks. Considering the Giants play the New England Patriots three weeks from now on a short week (Thursday, Oct. 10), it seems unlikely Barkley would be ready for that game.

New York earned its first win of the season Sunday under rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, who replaced Eli Manning as the Giants' starter. But losing Barkley is a crushing blow, considering his backup, Wayne Gallman, mustered just 13 yards on five carries Sunday.

Oh, and the Giants also will be up against a Patriots defense that hasn't allowed a single point so far this season.

New England won't look this Sunday's game against the undefeated Buffalo Bills and next week's matchup with the Washington Redskins, but for those peeking ahead, the Patriots' 2019 campaign just got easier.

UPDATE (1:05 p.m. ET): Based on Adam Schefter's latest update, it appears almost certain that Barkley won't play against the Patriots.

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Do NFL fans have Tom Brady to thank for fewer holding penalties Sunday?

Do NFL fans have Tom Brady to thank for fewer holding penalties Sunday?

You only have to connect a few dots to draw a line between Tom Brady's social media activity and a change in how NFL games were officiated Sunday.

Here's the first dot: The New England Patriots quarterback fired off two angry tweets last Thursday night complaining about an excess of "ridiculous" penalties in the Jacksonville Jaguars-Tennessee Titans game.

And here's another: The number of offensive holding penalties in Sunday's NFL games were nearly cut in half from the first two weeks of the season.

According to ESPN's Kevin Seifert, there's a story behind that statistic, as the league's senior vice president of officiating, Al Riveron, held a conference call with NFL referees Saturday night that focused on the issue of offensive holding.

Seifert notes that Riveron has held these conference calls before, so it's not like Riveron saw Brady's tweets and scrambled to change the NFL's Week 3 officiating tactics.

But Seifert also writes that Thursday's Jaguars-Titans game -- which featured 10 offensive holding calls -- was the "final straw" for Riveron and the league.

Brady arguably is the NFL's most influential player, and other players chimed in to support his criticism Thursday. So, it's not a stretch to suggest the 42-year-old's tweets -- and player sentiment as a whole -- played some role in the league deciding to take action.

For what it's worth, Sunday's Patriots-New York Jets featured four offensive holding calls, only two of which were accepted.

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