By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — There are some athletes and some fans and some media members in this country who spend their days wholly concerned and focused on the day-to-day events of the Cincinnati Bengals, or the Los Angeles Chargers, or the Detroit Lions or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Even beginning to to imagine that dreary existence is a suffocating thought.
Here in the greater Foxboro/Bill Belichick region of the country, boredom never seems to last for any stretch longer than, say, 12 hours. Whether it’s a shocking roster move, an unforgettable football game, an unsuspected appearance in the news, or any other of the 9 million various events that take place in the general orbit of Gillette Stadium, we are never short on captivating storylines, now are we?
To prove that, we could look at any sequence of events that has played out since Mo Lewis rocked Drew Bledsoe along the sideline one fateful late-September afternoon in 2001. We could analyze a variety of swings over the past 20 years.
Or we could just look at the past … two days.
In a span of just two days, the Patriots experienced and celebrated more dramatic developments than a midday soap opera.
The latest two installments of As The Belichick Turns has included:
–After the world marveled at the rapid unraveling of Antonio Brown, Belichick simultaneously shocked everybody and nobody by wasting zero time in signing the all-world wide receiver. Where most NFL teams seek to avoid “DISTRACTIONS” or circus sideshows, Belichick rushed to welcome it all into his building and his program.
–For the sixth time since 2002, Gillette Stadium played host to a banner unveiling celebration. This year’s party featured the standard fanfare and the welcoming of Patriots legends of the distant and recent past, as the Patriots officially docked their supertanker alongside the Steelers as the only NFL teams with six Super Bowl victories to their name. The difference, of course, is that the Steelers won their championships between 1974 and 2008. The Patriots’ titles were won between 2001 and 2018.
–The Patriots then went out and reminded the football world that, yes, unfortunately, they’re still the Patriots. Despite playing nothing close to a perfect game, they rolled right over those Steelers 33-3. The immortal Tom Brady threw for 341 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Julian Edelman caught passes, threw a pass and picked up a first down on the ground. As he shared on Instagram over the weekend, the America’s Worst Nightmare Tour is off to a rousing start.
Not that it was needed, but the 48 hours or so of pure mayhem was just the latest reminder that life in Foxboro is not like life in most NFL locales.
At the same time, you’d never know it based on the postgame press conference of the 67-year-old Bill Belichick.
Belichick was, as expected, the same stoic presence at the podium on Sunday night as he’s always been. Being that the Brown move is not yet “official” (in the sense that Belichick never gave the green light to “officially” announce it), the Patriots’ mastermind had little to say about the addition of the most-discussed lightning rod in the NFL.
“Yeah, no,” Belichick said when asked to comment on the addition of Brown. “I’ll talk about the game and the players that are on our team. I thought they did a great job tonight.”
When asked a few minutes later by a different reporter to comment on the transaction, Bill’s response was brief.
“No,” he said. “Next.”
To expect anything different from Belichick at this stage of the game would simply be foolish.
Brady, though, finally opened the floodgates when it came to talking about the controversial addition of Brown, who forced his way off the Steelers last winter and forced his way off the Raiders this summer.
“I think everybody’s excited to add great players. It helps everybody when you have great players that are sharing the burden of a tough football season. I think, like anything else, whether it was Josh last year or Phillip when he got here a few years ago late, and then this year Antonio, how much can you learn and process and get in here? And we’re all going to work hard and try to get up to speed as fast as possible,” Brady said after career victory No. 238 (regular and postseason combined). “We’re all excited to have him. All I could say is we’re just going to work as hard as we possibly can to get up to speed as quickly as possible.”
Prior to the game, news leaked of Brady being “one million percent in” on the acquisition, to the point where he’s willing to bunk up with Brown in Brookline.
“That was a personal conversation with RKK,” Brady said of his conversation with owner Robert Kraft. “I guess I gotta reevaluate … I gotta tell him.”
When asked how he will help Brown assimilate quickly, Brady chose to look at his current situation as a quarterback’s dream.
“Antonio’s had a lot of production, Demaryius [Thomas] has had a lot of production, Julian’s had a lot of production, Josh [Gordon] has had a lot of production, Phillip [Dorsett] had a great game tonight. So, the point is we’ve got a lot of players that are talented and we’ve just got to figure out how to make it all work,” Brady said. “We’re going to work hard. It’s a long year. It’s the beginning of a long marathon and the NFL’s very competitive and it’s going to be a great challenge, but I think we’re all looking forward to it.”
The Patriots are certainly looking forward to it. Those in this great nation who would prefer to see the Patriots stop winning football games might not be.
Nevertheless, the story goes on.
And perhaps the greatest development of all is that the most recent chapter of his ever-captivating tale is just beginning. Brown still has to, you know, actually show up to work. Perhaps he kept the phone number of that Napa Valley hot air balloon.
There will also be your standard NFL fare, as the defending champs seek to be the first repeat NFL champions since … the Patriots of 2003 and 2004. There will be injuries, adversity, incessant rumors and speculation, and perhaps even a so-called exposé from a national publication or two to really squirt some lime juice into everybody’s wide-open peepers, all of which will remain fixed squarely on the goings-on of this football team from now until February.
Along the way, we’ll all bear witness to countless surges and downturns. Some will be forgotten in a day’s time, others will be remembered forever. Some might even get catchy nicknames, like the Snow Bowl and/or The Tuck Rule Game, The Malcolm Butler Play, Malcolm Butler Not Playing, “28-3,” “16-0,” “18-1,” The Miami Miracle, Fourth-and-2, the Urlacher juke, Edelman-to-Amendola, The Ty Law Game, or any of the dozens of moments that have been etched in NFL history since Brady and Belichick relocated their lives to Norfolk County at the turn of the 21st century.
We don’t know and can’t know what will come next, aside from two inescapable truths. It will be worth watching, and we’ll never see it coming.
All Patriots fans should be thankful for all of this. And whether they recognize it or not, the haters should too.
Without Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, what would any of us ever talk about?