Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots’ coaching staff not being present at this year’s Senior Bowl created quite a buzz on Boston sports talk radio. Whether it was 98.5 The Sports Hub or WEEI, the talking heads did what they do best: throw unsubstantiated theories around in the name of generating controversy.
However, the Patriots not being present at the exhibition event was a) not a big deal given that all but four coaching staffs were absent, and b) all part of the team’s plan. Belichick and his assistants, after all, had most of January off after the team’s last game of the 2020 campaign earlier that same month.
With New England’s season finale against the New York Jets as well as Super Bowl 55 now in the rear-view mirror, and with all 32 organizations in the league now in offseason mode, however, the Patriots have returned to work again. As remarked by ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, Belichick and company are back at Gillette Stadium for the second straight week to start preparations for the upcoming 2021 season.
While the timeline may look different for the team this year compared to most over the last two decades, the general schedule remains unchanged: the coaches took some time off after wrapping up the previous season. Belichick himself pointed this out during his season-end media conference call last month.
“I think we can all use a breath of fresh air and a break to get away from things for a period of time,” Belichick said after New England’s win over the Jets in Week 17. “But, during that time, I’m sure that I know our staff, and even though we’re away, we’ll still have access to information and we’ll start working on it. When we come back after that period, then we’ll eventually get to everything.
“We’ll have to prioritize what comes first and what comes second and what comes third. There’s a list of things that we’ll accomplish before certainly the deadlines — the start of free agency, the start of the draft, the start of whatever OTAs are or aren’t. We’ll get things done well ahead of that schedule, but it will be a combination of working through all those things.”
Now back at work, the Patriots’ coaching staff certainly has plenty of issues that need to be addressed — from finding the next starting quarterback, to addressing a long list of free agents, to finding ways to upgrade a roster that has numerous holes on both offense and defense. Doing all that will be a process that takes quite some time, but it is one that has now officially been kicked off.
New England is on to 2021.