Patriots

Tony Romo could see Bill Belichick coaching 'all the way until we put him in the ground'

Tony Romo could see Bill Belichick coaching 'all the way until we put him in the ground'

RUMFORD, Rhode Island -- Tony Romo never played for Bill Belichick, but he has had an opportunity to pick Belichick's brain several times over the course of the last couple of years.

Since he became a color commentator for CBS, Romo -- along with play-by-play man Jim Nantz and others -- has been able to sit with Belichick during production meetings ahead of CBS broadcasts of Patriots games. Those are generally relaxed settings where Belichick will provide insight on his team, its season, upcoming matchups. Whatever might help the broadcast. 

Ahead of competing in the Northeast Amateur Invitational at the Wannamoisett Country Club, Romo met with reporters to take questions about his golf game. But it didn't take long before the Patriots became a topic of conversation. 

Asked if in those production meetings he got a sense for Belichick's enthusiasm for his job, Romo said he doesn't see a head coach who looks anywhere close to retirement. 

"I feel like there's rare guys in life that just . . . It's just kind of who they are. It's not as if he's working," Romo said.  

"I relate him to something I really [liked to say]. 'Attack throwing the football,' I'd say. Every day of your life, for like 10 years. It was literally, you could not not do it, I felt like. 

"With Bill, I just feel like that's what he wants to do. He wants to actually work that hard. Not because he thinks he's working hard. It's a joyful obsession for him. It brings him joy to do this, to compete."

Belichick turned 67 in April, and though he told NFL Films cameras in 2009 that people didn't have to worry about him taking after Marv Levy and coaching into his 70s, that seems like a distinct possibility at this point. 

Belichick has a program set up to his liking. He has a boss who gives him the opportunity to run the football side of things. He has assistants on the coaching staff and in the front office who have come up through the ranks, who've learned from him, who understand the way he wants things done. 

And in the instances when we're allowed to watch Belichick go about his work, he does so with plenty of energy. At minicamp earlier this month he bounced from one position group to the next on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, getting involved in drills at times to show players how to take an angle or how to hit a sled.

There are challenges, to be sure. Belichick just lost a sizable chunk of his coaching staff, including last year's defensive play-caller, to a division rival. His character coach left for a playoff team in the conference — a team that just tried to pluck one of his most valuable employees from the offices at One Patriot Place. Belichick's roster is one of the league's oldest. He has 19 draft picks he's taken in the last 14 months that he's trying to get up to speed. 

But those obstacles may help to hold Belichick's interest in a job he's held for two decades, Romo explained. Seeing the team through to the other side of whatever roster/staffing turnover is underway may be part of what's keeping him around. 

"The challenges that they face, I think that just makes it more fun for him, if anything," Romo said. "It doesn't make it harder and [and make you] want you to walk away. I think it's the opposite. I think he'd enjoy that aspect. 

"To me, I think, if he wanted to, he'll do this all the way until we put him in the ground. I think he's that good. He's the rarest of rares. He's brilliant."

That would be music to the Kraft family's ears, one would think. Two years ago, coming off the team's fifth Super Bowl title, Kraft said at the NFL's Annual League Meeting that he wanted Belichick to go for another couple decades.

"I hope he coaches until his 80s," Kraft said at the time. "I see Warren Buffet and Rupert Murdoch, and they're in their mid-80s, and they're performing at a pretty high level. We gotta keep Bill healthy."

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Patriots QB Cam Newton given this jersey number with his new team

Patriots QB Cam Newton given this jersey number with his new team

The New England Patriots made the signing of quarterback Cam Newton official on Wednesday, and while it might be weird for some NFL fans to see the former MVP in a red, white and blue jersey this coming season, there is one part of his gameday look that will remain the same.

Newton will again wear the No. 1 jersey, according to the team's official roster page. This is the same number he wore during the first nine seasons of his career with the Carolina Panthers. 

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You might be surprised to learn that Newton will be just the fourth player in Patriots history to wear the No. 1 jersey and the first to do it since 1987, per Pro Football Reference's data. The other three players to wear No. 1 for the Patriots are former kickers Tony Franklin, Eric Schubert and John Smith. And, of course, the Pat Patriot mascot also wears No. 1.

Whether Newton ends up being the Patriots' No. 1 quarterback for Week 1 of the 2020 regular season remains to be seen. He's the favorite to win the starting job following Tom Brady's departure in March, but 2019 fourth-round draft pick Jarrett Stidham and veteran Brian Hoyer also are on the depth chart and should provide competition for Newton. 

Next Pats Podcast: How can Pats maximize Harry's talent? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Next Pats Podcast: How can Patriots utilize N'Keal Harry more in 2020?

Next Pats Podcast: How can Patriots utilize N'Keal Harry more in 2020?

N'Keal Harry had his rookie season derailed by injuries, but that has done little to lessen expectations ahead of his second NFL campaign.

The New England Patriots wide receiver has obvious talent. The team selected him in the first round (32nd overall) of the 2018 draft after a successful college career at Arizona State, and when Harry did get onto the field with the Patriots, he showed flashes of his impressive skills.

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One of the challenges for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels this coming season is finding ways to get Harry more involved in the offense and maximizing his abilities. 

How can the Patriots accomplish that goal? Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo joined the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast to break down his expectations for Harry and ways the Patriots can use him.

"I think he'll get better as the years go on. I think what has to happen is people need to change their expectations sometimes for receivers, especially first-round wide receivers," Palazzolo told our Patriots insider Phil Perry. "We're talking about a position where there's three starters, and not every receiver is going to be Julio Jones, and not every starter is going to be as good as Julian Edelman -- a guy you can depend on to get open in crunch time and third down.

"When we evaluated Harry coming out (of college), his skill set reminded us a lot of Demaryius Thomas, who, when you look at his best work, he was catching the ball and running well after the catch, as well as making contested catches. Harry did struggle separating, which is kind of an important point for receivers. He struggled getting open. I think if the expectations are, right or wrong, here's a guy we can scheme some stuff up for -- that back-shoulder touchdown he had from Tom Brady, that's the type of stuff, the vertical route tree, contested catches, using his big body. That's the type of stuff you can expect from him, but you probably don't want to feed him 150 targets and say go be the No. 1 wide receiver. I think Harry is more of a complimentary piece."

Next Pats Podcast: How can Pats maximize Harry's talent? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

One way to put pressure on defenses and use Harry's strength and athleticism is giving him the ball on running plays. We've seen plenty of wideouts run gadget plays to take advantage of mismatches, and Harry could be used in a similar role for New England.

"If the Patriots do get creative with N'Keal Harry to get the ball in his hands, you could hand it off to him, you could put him out there, he'll have a cornerback matched up with him. And then the defense will have to figure out its run fits -- how do I get enough guys in the box to stop this guy?" Palazzolo said. "So whether it's the jet sweep game, whether it's just legitimately putting him in the backfield as a running back, I think there is a world where N'Keal Harry could be maximized and give you that advantage over defenses."

For the entire Harry conversation between Perry and Palazzolo, check out the Next Pats Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or watch on YouTube below: