While the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic is certainly the biggest story of the NFL’s 2020 season, it was not the only issue impacting the league’s players, coaches and other personnel. The protests against racial injustice and police brutality that broke out in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder in May also touched the NFL, and the New England Patriots were not an exception.
Led by team captains such as Matthew Slater and twin brothers Devin and Jason McCourty, the organization also was actively involved in the discussion — so much so that it held weekly meetings to discuss social topics. Also part of this process was head coach Bill Belichick, and it apparently left quite an impression on him.
“We all learned a lot. I certainly learned a lot as a coach,” Belichick said. “I had to coach and do things that I’ve never done before, do things differently, and I learned a lot about our players. This was a very educational year from all the social justice meetings and things that we had in the spring which carried over into the season. I think our team did a great job of that.
“We had great leadership from Jason [McCourty], Devin [McCourty], Matt [Slater] and many others — Brandon King, guys that are involved in just many, many different aspects of that.”
While seeing Belichick mention Slater and the McCourty Twins was not really a surprise given their status as long-time team leaders, Brandon King being named alongside them was. After all, King did not play a single snap for the Patriots in 2020 and missed the entire season on the physically unable to perform list.
This year was not the first that saw King miss considerable time due to injury, though. He also was forced to sit out the entirety of 2019 after tearing his quad in preseason.
But despite the challenge that the last two seasons presented for him, King was apparently still playing a vocal role within the organization in what has been a unique year for the Patriots and the league as a whole alike. Having a player like the 27-year-old on the roster cannot be underestimated, especially considering that New England is heading into an offseason that could once more bring some considerable turnover to the team.
King himself, meanwhile, has been with the Patriots since joining them as a rookie free agent in 2015. Since then, he has developed into a cornerstone special teamer that appeared in a combined 68 regular season and playoff games and helped bring two Super Bowls to New England.
Along the way, he also established himself as one of the team’s leaders despite not being voted captain in any of his six years with the club. Belichick mentioning him in his conference call therefore paints a pretty clear picture about his role on the team and importance behind the scenes.
In this role, he was among those veterans whose voices were more important than ever this season.
“Just bringing the awareness within the team for each other and us getting to know each other and appreciate each other’s background, story and thoughts,” Belichick said. “And that was very educational for me, as well as everybody else. I think we all benefitted from it, and, again, things that we’ve done this year that will help us going forward. That would certainly fall into that category — probably at the top of that category.”
Also helping the team going forward is adding King back to an already sound kicking game unit. It’s been long enough.