By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Bill Belichick opened up, if only for a fleeting moment, about the relentless, consistent competitiveness that Malcolm Butler brings to the table for the Patriots each and every day.
Then he said the word “team” seven times in a span of about 32 seconds.
Belichick was asked about Butler’s competitiveness so far in Patriots training camp and whether it rubs off on his teammates. In a rare moment of candor regarding an individual player, he agreed with that sentiment.
But in classic Belichickian fashion, he spent the remainder of his response clarifying that just about the entire team (that’s T-E-A-M) has a similar level of competitiveness. Either way, strong intangibles would bode well for a Patriots squad that on paper clearly has the best, deepest roster in the National Football League.
“Yeah, sure. Malcolm is a very competitive player,” said Belichick. “But I think we have a lot of other players on our team who are very competitive as well, both on the field and off the field. We create other competitive situations – not just practice, but we do other things, and you can really see that come out with the guys. It’s a quality that’s a strong trait with the vast majority, if not the entire team.
“It’s a very, very competitive team. As a team, once we put up a team – team against team – it’s competitive. But individually, if we set up an individual type of competition, that’s pretty competitive too, in a good way. A good, healthy way.”
The “team against team” comment was ostensibly a reference to Friday’s Patriots practice, which included an intra-squad scrimmage. But the totality of Belichick’s answer shows how steadfast the coach still is when it comes to putting emphasis on the team (great, now I’m doing it) rather than the individual.
Still, he couldn’t resist giving a quick bit of praise to Butler, who is clearly among the most competitive players on the Patriots roster and (probably) still the team’s No. 1 cornerback, despite the presence of the high-priced Stephon Gilmore.
Butler himself showed how committed he is to competing and playing football – for the team – even as he enters a contract year, when 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand asked him on Thursday whether his contract status is weighing on him at all.
“No, not at all, man,” said Butler. “I’m just doing the best I can to help this team and do anything to help the team win. It’ll come. Just got to be patient.”
If there were ever a Patriots player who deserved to have a spotlight placed on his individual situation, it’s Butler. But even he is doing his best to stay laser-focused on helping the Patriots as a team. It’s pretty clear why Belichick practically couldn’t resist praising him individually.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @Dolloff985 and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.