BOSTON (CBS) – The start of training camp has finally arrived and it couldn’t have come any sooner for the players, or for the fans of the New England Patriots.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to put all this negative news behind us and get ready for some football.
Bill Belichick is known as a man of few words, but Wednesday was different. He’s there to win games, not fans. But, no matter how you feel about him, he had to win you over, even if just a little bit, after the speech he delivered in addressing the arrest of Aaron Hernandez for the first time. It’s an ongoing debate as to whether or not he needed to address the media. Of course he didn’t need to, but he did, in what seemed like his own terms. He may or may not have written that speech himself, but I do believe if he didn’t, he spoke the words as if he did.
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Standing behind the podium, Belichick was not his usual stoic self. He looked a little stunned and sounded a little sad. For 22 minutes he opened up to us, took questions, succinctly answering the ones he could and cited ‘no comment’ on those that had to do with the ongoing investigation. Even with his coaching style, he knew this was a situation that couldn’t be ignored. It was a situation beyond football; it was real life, and it affected a lot of people. He took responsibility for a massive misjudgment of character when evaluating Hernandez.
“Most of the decisions have worked out. Some don’t,” he said. “Overall, I’m proud of the hundreds of players who have come through the program. I am personally disappointed and hurt in a situation like this.”
I don’t care what facade you put up week after week during football season, circumstances like this will evoke emotion even from someone we perceive as emotionless.
After losing the conference finals to the Ravens in January, I don’t think this was how Belichick envisioned kicking off the 2013-14 season. But now they are moving forward — the new mantra for the Patriots.
This is the new Patriot way.
Bill delivered his message, Robert Kraft made his comments, and last year’s team captains had their day with the media, too. They’re ready to start camp, ignore the noise, and stay focused on the task at hand- which is bringing home another ring. The Hernandez situation is certainly a black eye for the team, but who could’ve seen that coming–a borderline serial killer with a $40 million dollar contract extension quietly catching passes from the game’s greatest quarterback.
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They’re no longer associated with him, he’s off the team, and as of today they focus on winning football games, properly representing the community and our city. This year’s roster looks very different than last year’s, but the fans and the city are relying on them to take the field and do better, be better. They’ll find a way to make it work with the players they have, both on and off the field. Nobody has adapted better over the years than Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
Tracy Clements is a weekend producer on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can follow her on twitter at @clementine_12.