ORLANDO -- Bill Belichick spent 47 minutes talking to the media Tuesday morning at the Ritz Carlton.
Much of it was fascinatingly awkward. Belichick hates being told where to go and when to get there. He likes even less the prospect of being buffeted by questions from reporters with unknown agendas.
For a guy who likes control, discretion and predictability, sitting at a table being probed for information puts him on alert. It makes him want to gnaw on people.
Verbal landmines are everywhere.
When a reporter asked about a timetable for Rob Gronkowski’s return from his ACL, Belichick fixed a withering glare and said, “Did you seriously ask me that question?”
When another reporter began a question about the Patriots’ proposed rules changes by stating that Belichick’s always subscribed to the notion, “the rules are the rules,” Belichick got visibly annoyed, answering, “You’re putting words in my mouth. I never said that. I just explained (the process for submitting rule change proposals).”
Asked if he wanted to eliminate the PAT, Belichick’s eyes popped.
“NO! I never said that!”
Belichick gets pilloried for being difficult but, in each of these situations and a few others, the questions weren’t A-plus inquiries. Could he have been more delicate in his responses? Surely.
And some of his answers were pretty funny.
After answering a question about replay cameras, I mentioned to Belichick the league’s lament that there would be a high cost involved with installation.
“We just spent, whatever it was, how many millions of dollars on the replay system?” he said. “I mean, there’s a thousand cameras in every stadium, so that if somebody spills a beer on somebody, we have it on record, right? Maybe we could have a bake sale. Raise some money for the cameras. Do a car wash.”
I asked why he didn’t make it to the coach’s picture on Monday.
“Yeah, I missed it. Maybe they can photoshop me in.”
Belichick’s most expansive answers were on the proposed rules changes. The Patriots proposed four.
He’s blasé about their chances for success.
“All four things are things that I’ve brought up to the competition committee in previous years, it’s never been put in front of the membership. This year it’s put in front of the membership and we’ll see how they feel about those things,” he offered. “I think a lot of the things that we’ve proposed are concepts, not married to a specific proposal per se, could definitely be amended.”
Belichick clearly thinks the exercise of kicking extra points is -- as constituted -- a monumental waste of time. And his case is airtight.
“Having (PATs) that are over 99 and a half percent successful, I don’t think that’s a competitive play,” he intoned. “I just think it should be a competitive play, and the way we’ve legislated the field goal rushes, it’s almost impossible to block a kick -- you can’t overload, you can’t block the center, you can’t jump, you can’t land on anybody. Unless the kicker just misses it or gets incredibly horrendous protection by the offensive line, it’s a non-competitive play.
“I don’t understand what’s so great about that,” Belichick asked. “I’d just like to see it more competitive. I’d certainly be open to any other suggestions that make it a more competitive play -- like if you were allowed to block it, that would make it more competitive. But, you know it’s a non-competitive play, as are the touchbacks. The guy is a great kicker and makes a great kick and the touchback . . . I have no problem with that, but when over half the league is making touchbacks on a consistent basis, I don’t see what’s so great about that. We should reevaluate those types of kicks.”