The 2016 NFL meeting is underway in Boca Raton, Florida, and yesterday, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft faced reporters to talk about his team. Today, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick did the same as part of the annual coaches breakfast.
Belichick’s table saw a lot of media attention as reporters from every major New England news outlet were present, as were members of the national media.
Here are some highlights of the 45-minute long session, which began with a short opening monologue by the coach, who was wearing a Hopkins Lacrosse-sweater.
The session started with Belichick praising Jerod Mayo.
New England's coach started the session with a few words about linebacker Jerod Mayo, who retired earlier this offseason. Belichick said that there were "very few players in my career that I've had the opportunity to coach that had more impact on a team than Jerod did have". Belichick said that, from day one, Mayo has been a "pleasure to coach" and that the coach "learned a lot more from him than he learned from me".
Furthermore, Belichick said that Mayo "will always be a part of the team" and that he will "always [be] welcome". The coach also mentioned Mayo's work ethic and love for football, which he described as "special".
Belichick also talked about changes on the coaching staff.
The coach talked about the various changes New England made to its coaching staff since losing the AFC Championship Game in January. Belichick said that the organization wishes former coaches Dave DeGuglielmo, Patrick Graham and Harold Nash well and thanked them for the contributions that they made to the team.
Finally, Belichick touched free agency.
The coach said that free agency has been "like it usually is" for the team and that the Patriots have "done the things that we feel are best for the football team. That's what we have done this year, that's what we have always done, that's what we will always do."
Belichick ended his opening remarks with a simple "that's pretty much the update from me".
The coach then fielded questions from the media members present and answered them with varying degrees of interest.
On Jerod Mayo potentially joining the coaching staff:
Belichick, who mentioned and praised Mayo throughout the session did not enclose whether or not the former All-Pro will one day have a spot on the coaching staff. The head coach said that the conversations he has had with Mayo were "personal".
On free agency moves:
Naturally, the coach was asked about the Patriots' moves during free agency. He addressed all questions with the usual "we will do what we think is best for our football team"-mantra, while declining to go into specifics about each player. Regarding the Chandler Jones-trade, Belichick said that "some players change teams in free agency; it's all part of the process".
Belichick also used "we'll see how it goes" quite a lot, especially when talking about new acquisitions Chris Hogan, Chris Long, Martellus Bennett and Jonathan Cooper. When asked about evaluating Shea McClellin, who has not had a clearly defined role in Chicago, Belichick said that the evaluation-process doesn't change because of that: "you evaluate what you see", while comparing the process to evaluating Vince Wilfork's college role in Miami.
On front office and coaching changes:
Belichick praised both Bob Quinn and Jon Robinson for the job they have been doing in New England and says that he is "happy for them personally" while it is "great to work with [them] on this team or on a different team" from a professional point of view. Belichick also praised Bob Quinn's successor as Director of Pro Scouting, saying that he had "done a good job".
The coach also quickly touched on new coaches Brian Flores, who switched from safeties to linebackers, and his son Steve, who fills Flores' old shoes. Belichick praised them both for their work ethic and the job they have been doing while, relating to his son, mentioning that "he's earned what he's received" and that he is "proud of all my kids". Furthermore, Belichick mentioned the benefits of promoting coaches from within: the team does not have to fundamentally change philosophies when doing so.
On the upcoming draft:
Belichick said that "each draft's unique" and that he and his staff are currently "just trying to figure it out". Regarding the number of draft picks and potential trades, the coach said that the team will evaluate this aspect later, stressing that "you can't move on your own" and that the Patriots have to be prepared to draft at the spots they are currently sitting at.
The coach also talked about evaluating players. According to Belichick, some players are already evaluated by the time that the college season concludes and that the scouting combine and pro days do not significantly change this evaluation: "how much you're going to learn about them [after the seaon] is probably pretty marginal".
When asked by Bob Socci about the difference in evaluating and drafting offensive linemen from pro-style or spread college offenses, Belichick replied that the distinction does not really matter and that all players have a lot to learn once they arrive in New England. The coach mentioned Shaq Mason and "the two guys from Florida State" – Bryan Stork and Tre Jackson – as examples for this.
On potential rule changes:
"We'll wait and hear what the discussion is on all the rules."
"I think he [Robert Kraft] covered it."
On injury evaluation:
On one occasion, Belichick lauded Tom Curran for a "great question" regarding the evaluation of injuries. Belichick said that the team studies injuries "every year" and that he and his staff "continue to learn a lot" about things that can be done from a team-standpoint as well as an individual, players-specific point of view.
Belichick summed up the injury management with one phrase: "Nothing is more important to us than the health and care of the players on our football team."
On the best long snapper of all times:
The final, highly anticipated long-snapper related question saw Belichick answer it as follows: "As I've said many times, [Steve] DeOssie changed the game."
After this answer, the session was over and Belichick left.
The coach was also asked about Logan Mankins, whom he compared with Jerod Mayo as a "pillar of the organization", about his foundation, about Chip Kelly and other teams ("we're trying to get a bit of a head start on all teams"). He was also asked about the contract situations of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski as well as where the coaches breakfast ranks in terms of excitement, to which Belichick replied that it is a "part of the exciting week of the owner's meeting".