By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots had one of their wildest offseasons in recent memory, arguably the most surprising in Bill Belichick’s 17-year tenure as head coach. It included some major acquisitions via both free agency and trades, headlined by the big-money signing of cornerback Stephon Gilmore and the big-time swap of a first-round pick for receiver Brandin Cooks.
But the typically stoic Belichick wasn’t going to show his hand with these new faces. He was never going to talk these guys up just days into OTAs. He was going to treat them just like any other Patriots player. Still, reporters had to do their jobs and ask him at Thursday’s OTAs in Foxboro about the Patriots’ glut of new additions to a team that appears to be loading up for another Super Bowl run.
How about that Brandin Cooks, coach?
“Well, Brandin’s got – we did a couple years ago in the draft – a good player. We’ve worked against him here. We’ll see how it goes.”
Well … Stephon Gilmore, though. What will he bring to the Patriots?
“He’s played well against us. In our division, we see quite a bit of him. We’ll see how it goes.”
OK … well there’s also Kony Ealy, Dwayne Allen, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Lawrence Guy, and Andrew Hawkins to go along with all of your rookies. Lot of new faces in Foxboro this season, what would you give them for advice?
“We start at the bottom and try to work our way up. Yeah, you’d have to ask them what their thoughts are. We just try to get them caught up to what we’re doing, so just don’t take anything for granted. Just work from the bottom up.”
These quotes may not exactly be what reporters wanted out of Belichick, but they’re just the latest indication of how great a team-builder he really is. Gilmore, who is guaranteed $40 million on his five-year deal with the Patriots, doesn’t get special treatment. Cooks had more receiving yards and touchdowns than anyone on the 2016 Patriots, but he’s still starting from the bottom. Burkhead and Gillislee will each make more money than Super Bowl LI hero James White, but they still need to start at the bottom of the pecking order.
The aforementioned Cooks, Gilmore, Burkhead, and Gillislee figure to be major contributors to the Patriots in 2017, but Belichick isn’t exactly about to hand anything to them. He expects them to work just like anyone else. It’s just another reason why Belichick is the best.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.