FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick’s Friday press conference began with him swatting back inevitable questions about Rob Gronkowski. It’s the dance and Belichick doesn’t love it but on this day he at least went through the steps.
By the end, though, Belichick warmed to the conversation with the media in general and was letting some Friday perspective loose.
The portion I found most interesting came at the very end when Belichick was discussing Logan Ryan’s adjustment to a different role in the secondary and reduced playing time.
Did Belichick talk to Ryan? Often, the coach will say that his conversations are private. Not this time. And the reply gave insight into the message the Patriots impart over and over and over to their players. The same one the coach has given since 2000. The boat won’t move unless everyone grabs an oar and rows in unison with the rest.
“Yeah, sure,” Belichick began. “We always talk about that. It’s not an easy conversation because everybody wants to play more but at the same time everybody wants to have a good team and everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to do their role. We all want it to be bigger but sometimes we have to understand the bigger team picture, which I think our players do. Again, that’s not always. But you give that up when you play football. You give up some of your individuality. You give up some of your individual preferences or individual control you have to play the great team sport of football.
“If you want to go out there and run track, or swim, or throw the shotput, or play tennis or whatever it is; great,” Belichick added. “There’s nothing wrong with that and you control everything. You control how you practice. You control when you practice. You control how hard you hit the ball or how soft you hit it or whatever. Play golf. Then you’re your own team but when you buy into a team sport, not just defensively but offensively and in the kicking game, practice for the show-team, practice for the other side of the ball, so forth and so on, then you make a commitment to the team. And that’s different than playing individual sports.”
Unanimous buy-in is very hard to attain. Players’ livelihoods depend on how they show out on Sundays. For every Elandon Roberts -- a rookie who’s pinching himself at the opportunity to be a starting linebacker on the Patriots after being lightly-regarded out of Houston -- there’s a Jamie Collins who was on the cusp of a payday bonanza but was playing under a modest contract and in a system that wasn’t allowing him to just run around and make sensational plays.
“All players, that’s something that all players have to deal with but that’s part of playing football,” said Belichick. “But to your point of Logan [Ryan], he does a great job of that. But yeah, do all players want to play more? Do all players want more opportunities? Of course they do. But we have to try to set up a system and a structure that we feel like gives our team the best chance to win and I think everybody respects that.”