Trump praises Pa­tri­ots dur­ing White House visit

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY MATTHEW PARAS

Dur­ing a New Hamp­shire cam­paign rally in Novem­ber, Don­ald Trump read aloud a note from New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots coach Bill Belichick. The let­ter praised Trump for his lead­er­ship and tough­ness.

Months later, Trump was con­grat­u­lat­ing Belichick for his.

The ad­mi­ra­tion be­tween Trump and Belichick ex­tended to the White House Wed­nes­day as the pres­i­dent hon­ored the Pa­tri­ots for their Su­per Bowl LI 34-28 over­time win over the At­lanta Fal­cons.

Trump con­grat­u­lated New Eng­land on its dra­matic 25-point come­back, draw­ing par­al­lels be­tween his 2016 elec­tion and the Su­per Bowl, say­ing both he and the Pa­tri­ots over­came steep odds.

“Whether you’re try­ing to win a Su­per Bowl or try­ing to re­build the coun­try, as coach Bill Belichick would say, ‘there are no days off,’” Trump said.

Trump re­mem­bered, af­ter re­ceiv­ing Belichick’s let­ter, ask­ing the leg­endary coach if he could share the con­tents publicly.

Ac­cord­ing to Trump, Belichick asked to write an­other ver­sion for the then-can­di­date to use. Trump said he feared the new copy would be toned down.

“And you know what he did? He toned it way up,” Trump said. “It was much bet­ter. He made it the great­est let­ter. I did very well in that state. Thank you.”

Trump sin­gled out the Su­per Bowl con­tri­bu­tions of spe­cific Pa­tri­ots, from re­ceiver Danny Amen­dola’s fourth-down con­ver­sion to wide­out Ju­lian Edel­man’s fourth-quar­ter hero­ics. He also high­lighted re­ceiver Matt Slater’s com­mu­nity work and long-snap­per Joe Car­dona’s mil­i­tary ser­vice.

The Pa­tri­ots pre­sented the na­tion’s 45th pres­i­dent with a No. 45 jer­sey with his last name, along with a Pa­tri­ots hel­met from Su­per Bowl LI.

The team’s all-world tight end, Rob Gronkowski, missed the Su­per Bowl in Hous­ton due to in­jury, but he made his pres­ence felt Wed­nes­day in the White House.

The larger-than-life Gronkowski, as fa­mous for his off-the-field an­tics as he is for his on-field ex­ploits, popped into the af­ter­noon White House press brief­ing and asked Sean Spicer if he needed any help.

“I think I got this, but thank you,” Trump’s press sec­re­tary said with a smile, cre­at­ing a lighter mo­ment in a brief­ing room that has seen some con­tentious mo­ments in re­cent weeks be­tween Spicer and the White House press corps.

Pa­tri­ots quar­ter­back Tom Brady, who spent months fend­ing off ques­tions about his friend­ship with the pres­i­dent af­ter he was spot­ted in 2015 with a Trump hat in his locker, skipped the Wash­ing­ton trip, cit­ing fam­ily mat­ters.

At least four Pa­tri­ots said ear­lier they would boy­cott the White House cer­e­mony be­cause of Trump poli­cies.

Team owner Robert Kraft, an­other of Trump’s Pa­tri­ots friends (he do­nated $1 mil­lion to the pres­i­dent’s in­au­gu­ral com­mit­tee), dis­cussed the men­tal tough­ness re­quired to win both cham­pi­onships and pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

Trump had praise for both Belichick and Kraft, com­par­ing Kraft and the Pa­tri­ots to the Yan­kees dy­nasty un­der owner Ge­orge Stein­bren­ner.

“This Su­per Bowl win was a com­plete team ef­fort,” Trump said. “That’s the beauty in what they do — they win as a team.”

The Pa­tri­ots’ White House visit came the same day news broke that im­pris­oned for­mer New Eng­land tight end Aaron Her­nan­dez had com­mit­ted sui­cide. Her­nan­dez was serv­ing a life sen­tence for the mur­der of his friend Odin Lloyd.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Trump checks out the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots hel­met pre­sented to him by coach Bill Belichick (left) and team owner Robert Kraft on Wed­nes­day.

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