Army-Navy game in Belichick’s blood

Boston Herald - - SPORTS - BY KEVIN DUFFY Twit­ter: @Kev­inRDuffy

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.”

Short­handed Fins

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.”

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