The Unwritten Rules of Belichick


The Unwritten Rules of Belichick

Dont pull into a parking spot if someones already backing in. Keep your head down in the locker room, and straight ahead at the urinal. Dont fart in the elevator. On a plane, the middle seat gets both armrests. In the car, the driver picks the music. On moving walkways at the airport, its highway law: Left side for business, right side for pleasure.

Dont re-heat fish in the office microwave!

As human beings, there are an endless number of unwritten rules that we navigate around on a daily basis, and for the most part, everyone does a pretty good job of staying between the lines. But inevitably, from time to time, we all find ourselves on the wrong end of a broken rule: Some wankster steals a parking spot right from under your nose. The guy in the aisle seat falls asleep with his elbow jammed into your ribs. You walk off the elevator smelling like rotten eggs and processed taco meat.

To be honest, I think we get more upset when people break the unwritten rules than when they break actual laws. Why? Because the real criminals will eventually get caught. If someones desperate enough to smash a car window or break into an apartment, chances are hell do it again and again and again until he's busted and brought to justice. We have ways of dealing with people who break real laws. The unwritten rules? Theres nothing. No consequences. Only frustration, anger and disgust. Honestly, I have more contempt for a guy who talks loudly on his cell phone at a restaurant than I do for a drug addict who pick-pockets strangers on the T. Is that wrong? I mean, at least the druggie will get caught. The guy at the restaurant will go on for the rest of his life torturing society with loud, one-sided conversations about the real estate market in Charlestown.

Anyway, we all know that unwritten rules play as big a role in sports as they do in real life. Id need a few thousand words to break down all the secret sports codes that if broken will send the offended party into a two-year-olds temper tantrum:

Dont watch a home run too long. Never break up a no-hitter with a bunt. Dont shoot threes in a blow out. Dont take slap shots after the whistle. Dont under any circumstances run up the score. Dont incite a brawl by karate kicking a catcher in the chest. And apparently, when a team waives a player with the intention of re-signing him, do NOT put in a waiver claim on said player.

That last ones a little tricky, and Im not sure it makes sense, but theres no question that it exists. Why else would 28 other teams pass up the chance to land the rights to a very capable 24-year-old, 6-foot-6 tight end who in three short years has gone from captain of Ohio State to undrafted free agent to Super Bowl Champion and who's only getting better. I dont care that hes out for the year, check out some of the tight end depth charts around this league, and tell me there aren't teams who need Jake Ballard. They all could use him even if it means waiting a year. But no one flinched. Well, no one except Bill Belichick, a fact that only further enhances the perception that this unwritten rule however ridiculous it might be does exist. That when the Giants waived Ballard on Tuesday, they assumed hed find his way back to New York. That despite all the reasons why numerous teams might take a flyer on the young tight end, Coughlin and Co. never imagined anyone would.

Lets face it: Bill Belichick is an unwritten rule breaker. He'd steal that parking spot from you in a second. Hes the guy who takes your armrest. Who farts in the elevator just because he has to. Who keeps flicking the radio back to Bon Jovi when all you want to listen to is Howard Stern. "Errr, I'm riding shotgun. It's my choice. Everyone know that's the rule"

And right now, the Giants are acting like we all would in any of those situations theyre pissed. Not only because they lost their tight end or that they lost him to a rival. But because there's nothing they can do about it. Because as "wrong" as it might be, Belichick didn't break any rules. There are no consequences for his actions. You want to try and get even? OK, now you're playing his game. Now you're down to his level. Now you've justified his original action and have nothing left to stand on. Basically, he wins.

And that's the thing about unwritten rule breakers: It always works out in their favor. They're the one with the parking spot while you're still driving around in circles. They're fast asleep on the plane while you're wide awake watching your fourth straight episode of VH1 Storytellers. Their stomach feels better, while you're the one who needs an emergency shower. Regardless of the situation and as much as everyone else might hate them they come out on top.

And while I hate that person in real life, I love him as my football coach.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Bell's style, and unique talents, present challenges to Patriots defense


Bell's style, and unique talents, present challenges to Patriots defense

FOXBORO -- There are plenty of damn good running backs in the NFL but there is only one Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers star shuffles, darts and then dashes, often with bodies crashing all around him, many of them intent on doing serious bodily harm . . . but often failing.

“He’s very unique,” said linebacker Shea McClellin. “I don’t think anyone else runs quite like he does, but it’s efficient and it works.”

Defensive end Chris Long concurred: “His style is so unique, his patience, what he’s able to do with his vision. And as far as breaking tackles, being a complete player, catching the ball, he can do all that stuff.”

Now don’t get it twisted. The Pats respect the hell out of Bell, but they’d prefer they weren’t in charge of corralling him Sunday because everyone has failed during Pittsburgh’s nine-game winning streak. Bell, who played in eight of those games, has piled up over 1,500 yards from the line of scrimmage during that stretch -- 1,172 yards rushing, 336 yards receiving -- while scoring 9 touchdowns. 

“He’s really fun to watch unless you’re getting ready to play him,” said Long.

The respect Bell commands in Foxboro is evident when talking to the Pats running backs, who spoke glowingly about the former first-rounder and in LeGarrette Blount’s case, former teammate.

“No one can do what he does,” Blount told me. “They can try, but it won’t work.”

“That’s his style,” added Dion Lewis, himself a shifty fella. “You can’t try to do that. I’m pretty sure he’s the only guy that can do that.”

So how do the Pats accomplish something no one has been able to do over the last two-plus months? How do they slow Bell down, as they did back in Week 7, limiting him to 81 yards rushing (only 3.9 yards per carry)? 

“I think defensively he really forces you to be disciplined,” said Pats coach Bill Belichick. “You jump out of there too quickly then you open up gaps and open up space. Le’Veon has a great burst through the hole. He doesn’t really need long to get through there, runs with good pad level. He’s hard to tackle so if you don’t get a full body on him then he’ll run right through those arm tackles. [He] really forces everybody to be sound in their gaps.”

“If there’s space or if there’s a gap in the defense or if there’s an edge in the defense, he’s quick to take advantage of that,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia told us during a conference call earlier this week. “He’s going to be able to get into that open space pretty quickly so you can’t really -- I don’t think you want to sit there and guess.”

If the Pats defenders, especially at the linebacker level, do that -- guess and attack a gap aggressively in attempt to make a splash play -- they may fill one gap but open two others. And that’s where a four-yard gain can turn into 40.

“Everyone on the field, it’s their job to get to him, gang tackle and be aggressive,” said Rob Ninkovich. “It can’t be just one time but every time you’re on the field.”

“There’s no one guy that can stop him,” added Belichick. “You’re going to have to have everybody doing a good job in a number of different areas all the way across the front and then do a good job of tackling.”

The Pats are a terrific tackling team, and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season (actually, not since November of 2015), but the red-hot Bell will put recent history to the test. 

Report: Bennett playing with cracked bone, bone chips in ankle

Report: Bennett playing with cracked bone, bone chips in ankle

FOXBORO -- Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett admitted last week that he has been dealing with a variety of physical ailments throughout the course of his first season with the Patriots. "I've been fighting through [expletive] the whole year," he said, "and I'm not gonna stop now."


Bennett suffered a knee injury against the Texans last week that limited him in practices leading up to the AFC title game, but he's also had to cope with ankle and shoulder issues for much of the season.

On Sunday, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport tweeted: "Patriots love Martellus Bennett's toughness. Example: He plays with a cracked bone [and] bone chips in his ankle. Surgery likely this spring."

Bennett initially showed up on the Patriots injury report with an ankle issue after having his leg twisted awkwardly during a win over the Browns in Week 5. It hampered him for much of the regular season, and he seemed to aggravate it further while being tackled during a Week 12 victory at Met Life Stadium over the Jets. The following week, a win against the Rams, Bennett admitted he had what was probably his worst game of the season.

Bennett has continually played as the top tight end on the Patriots roster since Rob Gronkowski landed on injured reserve. He played in 64 of a possible 69 offensive snaps against the Texans in the Divisional Round, and he has played at least 43 snaps each week since the Patriots' bye in Week 9. For the season, he has played in 78 percent of New England's offensive snaps.

Bennett is due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. He'll turn 30 years old in March.