Chicago Sun-Times

BELICHICK EN­TER­TAINS

- Lorenzo Reyes @ Loren­zoGReyes

FOXBOR­OUGH, MASS. The white door swung open, and the man who was late had fi­nally ar­rived.

He wore blue jeans, white Nike sneak­ers, a loose- fit­ting navy blue polyester shirt that ex­tended to his el­bows and a sweat­shirt that was once the same color but had faded so much that it fell some­where be­tween gray and pur­ple. The sleeves, you might have guessed, were cut off at the shoul­ders.

He took seven quick steps on top of a plat­form and ar­rived at the podium. He looked at no one as he strode in. A quick glance at the ground, he rubbed his face and with both hands pushed down a pair of mi­cro­phones. He scanned the room from left to right.

“How we do­ing this morn­ing?” Bill Belichick asked the 50 or so re­porters and cam­era op­er­a­tors pack­ing the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots’ me­dia room Thurs­day morn­ing, the first of­fi­cial Su­per Bowl news con­fer­ence for the Pa­tri­ots.

The ques­tion was met mostly with si­lence.

Maybe two peo­ple of­fered a po­lite, “Good morn­ing.” The slight­est grin cracked across his face. His re­sponse: a “good” that was so brief and so muted that it reg­is­tered like a mum­ble.

“Sorry we’re run­ning a lit­tle bit late here,” he said, the 9: 15 a. m. sched­uled news con­fer­ence start­ing at 10: 01.

And then, with his raspy mono­tone that some in­som­ni­acs might con­sider sooth­ing to lull them to sleep, Belichick dove into the At­lanta Fal­cons, his team’s op­po­nent in Su­per Bowl LI, laud­ing them for be­ing “a very good foot­ball team.”

Belichick’s news con­fer­ences have be­come more no­table for what’s not said dur­ing them than for what is. They are at times tense, funny, un­com­fort­able, quiet, in­for­ma­tive, bor­ing, and fas­ci­nat­ing. Some­times, one ses­sion might weave sev­eral of those qual­i­ties to­gether.

But more so than any other coach in the NFL, Belichick mea­sures and cal­cu­lates his words pre­cisely.

When you ask a ques­tion, he waits for you to fin­ish be­fore an­swer­ing. His reti­nas flut­ter up and down as if com­put­ing not only the query, but the per­son ask­ing it. He pauses. He col­lects his thoughts. And his re­sponses are re­mark­able for the man­ner in which they fill time and news copy, but don’t re­ally say much.

This was ac­tu­ally a good news con­fer­ence. In­sight­ful, even.

Belichick ex­panded. He of­fered the oc­ca­sional nugget. He brought re­porters along for a 275- word aside on iden­ti­fy­ing ten­den­cies that could tip off gad­get plays. He also went 293 words on the dif­fer­ences be­tween craft­ing a game plan in one week vs. do­ing it in two.

It was a dif­fer­ent story be­fore the AFC Cham­pi­onship Game vs. the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers when Belichick held a news con­fer­ence.

A ta­ble off to his right dis­played hel­mets from both teams and the La­mar Hunt Tro­phy given to the win­ner of the game.

“Ob­vi­ously,” a re­porter be­gan, “this is a game that comes with a lit­tle more pomp and cir­cum­stance; the back­drop, these hel­mets, there’s a tro­phy there — ”

“I know,” Belichick dead­panned. “It’s so ex­cit­ing.” Chuck­les filled the room. That is when Belichick is at his best. Sar­cas­tic, witty, bit­ing and de­liv­er­ing dry- hu­mored zingers that make you think he’s do­ing men­tal fist pumps.

Any ques­tion, how­ever, about De­flate­gate, NFL Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell, Spy­gate, why a player was traded or re­leased, in­juries, legacy, any­thing with a whiff of con­tro­versy will get the, “I’m fo­cused on ( in­sert name of the next op­po­nent).”

“I ac­tu­ally en­joy the press con­fer­ences,” Belichick told ESPN last week in a video in­ter­view. “Be­cause it’s the con- nec­tion to the fans, and that’s re­ally who I’m talk­ing to — it’s the fans.”

On this Thurs­day, Belichick spoke for 26 min­utes and 38 sec­onds. At times, his knowl­edge of foot­ball flowed so eas­ily that it was easy to see why he’s considered by many as the great­est foot­ball mind in re­cent his­tory.

When there were no more ques­tions, he looked around, a rare oc­ca­sion when he was look­ing to field more. “OK. Yep, all right. Thank you.” With that, he walked off and dis­ap­peared be­hind that door, back into the maze of of­fices in­side Gil­lette Sta­dium.

 ?? AP ?? “I ac­tu­ally en­joy the press con­fer­ences,” Pa­tri­ots coach Bill Belichick said. “Be­cause it’s the con­nec­tion to the fans.”
AP “I ac­tu­ally en­joy the press con­fer­ences,” Pa­tri­ots coach Bill Belichick said. “Be­cause it’s the con­nec­tion to the fans.”

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