When the New England Patriots hit the fields for their first training camp practice on Wednesday, Cole Popovich will be nowhere to be found. The team’s co-offensive line coach last season, Popovich has left the club in a departure reportedly tied to the NFL’s guidelines about Coronavirus vaccination.
With him gone, Carmen Bricillo will take over coaching the Patriots’ O-line this season. Bill Belichick confirmed the change during a media conference call on Tuesday, and in the process of doing so set the tone for his club’s public handling of the Popovich situation.
It is what it is.
“From a staff standpoint, Carm will be coaching the offensive line. These are all things that play off the protocols from the league and so forth, so I’m not going to get into that any further. It is what it is,” Belichick said.
“From this point on, I’m focused on football and trying to get our team ready to go. Trying to get our staff ready to go, including myself. We all have a long, long way to go.”
Popovich spent the last six seasons in New England. He worked as a coaching assistant early on and later served as assistant running backs coach under Ivan Fears. Last year, with long-time assistant coach Dante Scarnecchia announcing his retirement, Popovich and Bricillo took over coaching the offensive line.
Now, Bricillo will be the lone O-line coach on the Patriots’ staff. While that may change the dynamic inside the room, center David Andrews pointed out on Tuesday that he and the rest of the group will still focus on the same goal as before.
“I feel comfortable. Doesn’t matter who it is. I’ve had three O-line coaches, now four, in my career,” he said. “We’ve got a great group. We’re going to come to work no matter who’s in the room, that’s just part of it. We’re all professionals. We’re all here to work and at the end of the day we’re all here to accomplish the same goal that 31 other teams are trying to go after right now.”
As for Popovich’s departure, Andrews followed Belichick’s lead.
“I know Bill kind of addressed that earlier,” he pointed out. “You know, I appreciate Cole and always will love Cole. He was a great coach. I know Bill addressed the situation, and it kind of is what it is. I’m just focusing on what we can do in training camp here and the hand we’re dealt right now.”