By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — One thing that’s been made very clear with Bill Belichick over the past two decades is that bad weather is no excuse to be late or miss work.READ MORE: Yam's Plan: Madar Eyes Spot On Celtics Roster For 2021-22 Season
The Patriots’ head coach spoke to the media on Monday morning, prior to the team taking the practice field for the first of three mandatory minicamp sessions in Foxboro. Without even being asked, Belichick offered up a potential reason that one or more players may not be present when practice begins.
“Had a little weather here. We’re working through some travel arrangements, so we’ll see what the full level of participation is here today and for this week,” Belichick said during his opening statement. “I’m sure we’ll have a pretty full roster.”
Such a comment stands in stark contrast to Belichick’s stance in past years. Malcolm Butler’s flight to get to OTAs in 2015 — months after his Super Bowl-saving interception — was canceled, and he called the team to inform him that he would be a day late to the optional training sessions. Belichick then reportedly didn’t allow him to participate in any practices for multiple weeks. Belichick also famously sent home a group of four Patriots — Adalius Thomas, Randy Moss, Gary Guyton and Derrick Burgess — for showing up late to the facility on the morning after a heavy snowstorm hit the area.
Longtime team captain Devin McCourty said in 2018, “[Belichick has] mentioned that he doesn’t care. Don’t call and say your car got stuck. I think everyone knows there are two hotels up here at Patriot Place, so stay there for the night. Find a way. … I think everyone, if you’ve been here for a week or two weeks, you kind of get that — ‘this guy Bill that talks every day in the early morning, he doesn’t play.'”
Matthew Slater, another longtime captain, likewise stated the same thing for that same snowstorm: “Coach has mentioned that several times to the team. I wouldn’t want to be the guy who’s late tomorrow. But look, I don’t think we’re going to have an issue. Guys understand we need to be here. The expectation is what it is.”
That well-known and well-documented history made Belichick’s comments stand out even more on Monday, considering Stephon Gilmore was clearly on the verge of a contract holdout.READ MORE: Patriots' Mike Onwenu Is A Tough Grader
And so, that history led to a follow-up question being asked of Belichick: Will travel issues caused by weather lead to excused absences for players who miss mandatory minicamp?
“Yeah, well just the travel arrangements over the weekend … so … not sure exactly, you know, how all of it worked out. We were close on a couple guys this morning. But, you know, we’ll catch up on that after we get done here and see where we’re at,” Belichick answered.
In yet another follow-up, Belichick was asked if the media should not jump to conclusions or overreact if a player is indeed absent from the mandatory sessions.
“No, I’m saying today’s the first day, they just got in here a little while ago. I’m not sure if everybody is here,” Belichick replied. “We didn’t take attendance at the meeting. But we’ll find out who’s here and who isn’t soon enough. That includes the players that were here last week and the players that weren’t here last week and everything else.”
These comments surely go against quite literally everything Belichick has ever said about missing work due to weather, so they raised several eyebrows when they were uttered.
And just moments after Belichick’s press conference concluded, a report came out stating that Gilmore was not in Foxboro for the first mandatory minicamp session.
It seems as though Belichick was curbing the impact of that absence, knowing that it would soon be known. A more optimistic approach — from a Patriots perspective, that is — could lead to an assumption that the two sides are close to a reworked deal, but perhaps need another day or two to iron out the details. Thus, a day one absence from the star cornerback may not be of significant consequence. That part of the story will reveal itself in the coming days and/or weeks.MORE NEWS: Daniel Theis Gets Paid, Signs $36 Million Deal With Rockets
But for now, leaning on weather as a reason for the absence when weather had very clearly had no place at all on the list of acceptable excuses in Foxboro made it a curious choice for the Patriots’ head coach on Monday.