BOSTON (CBS) — In his 20 years with the Patriots, Bill Belichick has done just about anything and everything a head coach/GM could do with a franchise. But until last week, there was one small exercise that he hadn’t participated in — by choice.

Before the Patriots traded Demaryius Thomas to the Jets for a 2021 sixth-round pick last week, Belichick had never made a trade with New England’s AFC East rival.

It’s easy to understand why Belichick hadn’t dealt with his former franchise. It’s the same place that named him head coach against his wishes back in 2000, and Belichick returned the favor by writing his resignation letter on a napkin a day later, stepping down from the job at the very press conference that was supposed to announce him as the new HC of the NYJ.

The Patriots and Jets have always had a frosty relationship, but things went ice cold when Belichick landed in New England in 2000 and started raising banners for the Patriots. The last time the two teams made a trade was actually for Belichick, when Robert Kraft sent a first-round pick to New York — on orders from then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

With the Patriots set to host the Jets in Week 3, reporters asked Belichick about the lack of transactions between the two teams since he took over the Patriots. It’s the kind of question Belichick would normally grunt to the side, but on Tuesday, he explained it pretty honestly.

“There was, I would say, a certain period of time when there’s no way this transaction would’ve happened,” Belichick told reporters on Tuesday’s conference call. “But during other periods of time –  again, we don’t want to help the Jets, they don’t want to help us. We’re in the same division, so they’re not the easiest trades to make. But if the trade is good for both teams, and ultimately, what we’re trying to do is improve our team.

“We have 14 other games to play besides the game against the Jets, so do we want to help them, do they want to help us? No and no, but in the end, if it helps us in the other 14 games and helps our team, then it’s something that’s worth considering,” he continued. “We’ll try to help our team in any way we can. Not saying that a trade within the division, you don’t have to analyze a little bit more closely, but we’ve done it before certainly with Miami and with a player like [Wes] Welker or with Buffalo with a player like [Drew] Bledsoe. Those weren’t insignificant players at that time.”

Belichick has actually made six trades within the division, so he isn’t averse to dealing in the AFC East. He would just really prefer if the trade didn’t — in any way, shape or form — actually help the Jets.

“In the end, I want to do what’s best to help our football team and I don’t want to help our opponent that much, but you have to give up something to get something and you have to look at your situation and try to do what’s best for your team,” said Belichick. “But that’s a great question. I’m sure that when you look at the beginning of each year, inter-division trading, it’s probably not something that would think is going to be at the top of the list, but you know, we traded with Buffalo this year, too. So we made two division trades within a week. You never know.”

Thomas made his New York debut on Monday night, but left after one reception (which went for a loss of a yard) after re-aggravating his hamstring.

Tune in to Patriots-Jets on WBZ-TV — the flagship station of the New England Patriots. Pregame coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. with Patriots GameDay, with kickoff set for 1 p.m. After the game, switch over to TV38 for all the reaction and analysis — including Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s press conferences LIVE — on Patriots 5th Quarter!

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