FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — When New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick sends a message it is generally well received. That’s true whether the intended audience is his team or some outside target, like the media.
As the Patriots wrap up OTAs this week in Foxborough, with the media getting its final pre-training camp look at the defending champs on June 13, Belichick clearly had a message to spread.
It was a message for both his team and the reporters covering.
That message? Basically that in the wake of the team receiving its Super Bowl LI championship rings last week, the glory of 2016 is long gone and New England is merely one of a 32-team NFL pack looking to establish itself heading toward the fall.
“It was a great night,” Belichick said of the June 9 ring ceremony at owner Robert Kraft‘s house, “but, really, we need to move on to 2017. You know, we’ve had enough parades, enough celebrations and enough everything. This ’17 team hasn’t done anything yet – none of us have. We really need to focus on what we’re doing this year. There have been a lot of great moments in the past, which is great, but that isn’t going to help us this year.”
When slot receiver Julian Edelman met with the media a few hours later after practice, he clearly echoed his coach’s pre-practice words.
“I could say for me personally it does that,” Edelman said of the ring ceremony closing the door on last year and turning all the focus to the coming season. “Sixteen was fun but ’16 is over. It’s ’17 now. There are no champions. Everyone’s got the same record. Everyone is working hard in the heat. So it’s one of those things where the teams that can go out and take advantage of these times and really mold together are usually the teams that come out and have good starts to their seasons, so that’s what I’m trying to do personally.”
With last week’s mandatory minicamp already in the books, the Super Bowl-favorite and defending-champion Patriots conclude a seemingly productive spring this week before dispersing for the time between now and the opening of training camp in the final week in July.
What will Belichick be telling his team as they depart?
Back to that simple message.
“I think it’s obvious we all have a lot of work to do – coaches, players, each individual, each unit,” Belichick rattled off from his coach-speak script. “We need to, I’d say, make the gains that we can make in that timeframe and be ready to come together to put a good product on the field when we come back in July and through training camp in August. But we’ve got a long way to go. We all have a lot of work to do. There’s some things we can do over the next month, there’s some things we can’t, and then when we regroup, then that will obviously be a key time for us. The better prepared we are for that, probably the better and the more production we’ll have. If we’re not prepared for it, then we’ll miss another opportunity.”
One can only wonder what Belichick’s tone and message might be if he didn’t oversee the best team in football, a Tom Brady-led squad looking to defend its title with a third Super Bowl in four years.
Actually, it’d probably be the same message.