Army-Navy game in Belichick’s blood
FOXBORO — In advance of today’s annual Army vs. Navy game, Patriots coach
Bill Belichick recalled his memories of the rivalry, dating all the way back to the 1950s.
At his press conference yesterday, Belichick said the first football game he remembers watching was the 1959 Army-Navy matchup. Belichick was 7 at the time.
“Joe Bellino’s three-touchdown game,” Belichick said of the Heisman Trophy winner from Winchester. “That’s really the first game I can remember watching … 43-12. That was coach
(Wayne) Hardin’s first year as head coach. I was at home, and I started going to the games after that. But that one, I was with a babysitter, watching at home.”
Thetimespentaroundthe Navy practice field with his father, Steve Belichick, fueled Bill’s desire to become a coach. Steve Belichick coached at Navy for 33 years, beginning in 1956.
“Probably like a lot of kids, I followed my dad around, went to practice,” Belichick said. “I was an only child. Did it at a young age. Always sort of looked up to the coaches and players at the Naval Academy, and certainly there’s a lot to look up to. There’s a lot of great, great people that wore those uniforms, both on the coaching staff and the players, that went on to serve our country and dedicate their lives to our freedom.”
Belichick’s time around the Navy program also afforded him the opportunity to observe many legendary coaches.
“Guys like Lee Corso and coach Rozano, coach Hardin, Ernie Jorge, Dick Duden, Jack Cloud,” Belichick said. “I mean, it’s a long list of people that have really had a big impression and impact on me. They didn’t know they were teaching it to me, but I was somehow learning it.”
Although Belichick grew up around the college game, he never coached at that level. His first job was an entrylevel position with Ted
Marchibroda’s Baltimore Colts.
“When I was in college, I was going to go with coach
(Lou) Holtz to North Carolina State to be a graduate assistant down there, and they hired me, then he fired me and I ended up at Baltimore with coach Marchibroda,” said Belichick, who added the Colts job was “for no money, but for a great experience.”
“(It) was worth way more than whatever they could have been paying me — which I wasn’t worth anything, so I wasn’t making anything,” Belichick said. “So, yeah, sometimes it’s just the ball bounces your way, I guess.”
The Dolphins rank third in the league in takeaways largely thanks to Xavien Howard. The shutdown cornerback leads the league with seven interceptions, but won’t add to that total against Tom Brady.
Howard, who is nursing a knee injury, has been ruled out of Sunday’s game. Miami rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick, who has bounced between cornerback and safety this season, projects as a starting corner. Secondyear pro Torry McTyer and veteran Bobby McCain , who plays in the slot in Miami’s nickel defense, likely round outthegroup. Dolphins center Jake Brendel was also ruled out because of a calf injury. Receiver Danny Amendola, limited in practice with a knee injury, is questionable to play against his former team.
All things considered, the Patriots are in a good spot injury-wise. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore (ankle) and tight end
Dwayne Allen (knee) are the only players listed on the injury report. They are both questionable.
Gordon on target
With Howard out, Pats receiver Josh Gordon is looking at advantageous matchups on Sunday.
Gordon’s chemistry with Brady stands out, as he has caught all eight targets in the past two games.
“He’s done a good job of all that,” Belichick said. “And the things that have been somewhat repetitive and come back over time … the timing on those, of course has gotten better, from both him and Tom and the rest of the offense.”
Deserving of honor
The Patriots nominated
Devin McCourty for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award earlier this week.
McCourty, who has been active in the community since being drafted by the Patriots in 2010, is “so deserving of that recognition,” according to Belichick.
“Devin’s just a tremendous person, team captain pretty much ever since he got here — (his) second year,” Belichick said. “(He) has been a great player for us, great leader for us, very unselfish with his time, great example for younger players, just does everything right.”