Belichick: I was looking for an explanation

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Belichick: I was looking for an explanation

FOXBORO -- Before Bill Belichick even fielded any questions at Monday's press conference at Gillette Stadium, he felt the need to explain himself. The Patriots coach gave his reasoning for making contact with an official at the end of Sunday night's loss to the Baltimore Ravens, which ended in a questionable Justin Tucker field goal that just barely made it over the right upright.

"I've been asked about the situation at the end of the game, so, I'm just going to take a couple minutes to explain that. And that will be the end of it," said Belichick on Monday.

"On the final kick, after we took the timeout and rushed the kick, from the sideline, I saw the ball go pretty close to the upright. I couldn't obviously tell, from where I was at, where exactly it went. But I saw players waving that it was no good. And I saw the officials giving the signal that it was good. I just wasn't sure, from where I was standing, whether the ball, when it went over the cross bar, was above the upright or in between or not in between the upright. So, by rule, if the ball isn't over the crossbar, and it's either inside or outside of the upright, that's reviewable. If it's over the cross bar, over the top of the upright, then it's not reviewable. But I couldn't tell, from my angle, when the ball crossed the cross bar, where it was. So I didn't know whether or not that play was going to be under review, or whether it wasn't.

"So when the game was over, I went out and I was really looking for an explanation from the officials as to whether or not the play was under review," continued Belichick. "And I did try to get the official's attention, as he was coming off the field, to ask that. But I really wasn't able to do that."

Belichick grabbed the arm of one official at midfield, just before shaking hands with Baltimore coach John Harbaugh. The official didn't even look at Belichick, and kept running off the field.

A day later, there have been questions as to whether or not Belichick would be hearing from the league. But the Patriots coach defended himself on Monday, pointing out a game in 2000 that was re-started after it was "over."

"I've coached in this league a long time, and I've never been penalized, never had any incidents with officials, or anything like that," said Belichick during his opening comments to the media on Monday. "I never meant any disrespect or in any way tried to abuse or be disrespectful to the officials and the job that they do. I was trying to get an explanation for, obviously, an important call, play in that game. And that's the number one thing -- between coaches and officials -- that's always at the forefront, just the communication of what's going on, what's happening.

"In 2000, here in Foxboro, with Johnny Grier as the referee, Drew Bledsoe was trying to throw a pass at the end of the game against Miami, and the ball was ruled a fumble. The clock ran out. The game was over. And then, as I was walking off the field with Johnny at that time, I talked to him how this seems like an incomplete pass, there should be more time on the clock, we should have another play here. But no, that was the ruling, the game was over. We go back into the locker room, and 10 minutes or so later, Johnny comes back and says they're reviewing the play and we may have to go back out and finish the game. Five minutes after that, the players got dressed, we came back out for a final play in that game.

"So, I've been through situations at the end of the game where it's over but it's not over, that type of thing," added Belichick. "And that was really the situation last night. I was just trying to get the official's attention to get an explanation on it. And in no way was I ever trying to do anything other than that. So, I have nothing further to add about that situation, but that's what happened."

Belichick refused to answer any questions about the final play or his contact with the official, but he did feel the need to discuss how important "communication" is between coaches and officials.

"As it relates to the officiating, that's always the number one thing," said Belichick. "From the time when we meet with the officials in the spring, to when the officials come to training camp. to before every game when we meet with the officials, both in pre game and also out on the field when we meet with the referee, the thing that we always communicate about is communication. We talk about communication.

"Sometimes the officials have the information, sometimes they don't. But when they don't, then they usually get back to you, as soon as they get it, after a TV timeout or after they've had a chance to talk to whoever it was that made the call. That's normal. That's just the way it is."

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track. 

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

Ever since Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders to give him the highest average annual contract value in league history, some version of the same question has been posed over and over again. 

What does this mean for other quarterbacks looking for new deals? 

Despite the fact that Carr's average annual value surpasses the previous high set by Andrew Luck ($24.6 million), and despite the fact that Carr's contract provides him the security that alluded him while he was on his rookie contract, his recent haul may not mean much for the likes of Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and other top-end quarterbacks.

They were already expecting monster paydays down the road that would hit (or eclipse) the $25 million range, and Carr's record-setting contract may not even serve as a suitable baseline for them, as ESPN's Dan Graziano lays out.

So if Carr's contract did little more for upper-echelon quarterbacks than confirm for them where the market was already headed, then does it mean anything for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo? 

Carr and Garoppolo were both second-round picks in 2014, but from that point, they've obviously taken very different roads as pros. Carr started 47 consecutive games in his first three years and by last season he had established himself as one of the most valuable players in the league. Garoppolo, by comparison, has started two games. 

Both players still hold loads of promise, but unless Garoppolo sees substantial playing time in 2017 and then hits the open market, he won't approach Carr's deal when his rookie contract is up.  

ESPN's Mike Reiss projected that a fair deal for Garoppolo on the open market might fall between the $19 million that was guaranteed to Chicago's Mike Glennon and Carr's contract, which includes $40 million fully guaranteed and $70 million in total guarantees, per NFL Media.

Perhaps something in the range of what Brock Osweiler received from the Texans after Osweiler started seven games for the Broncos in 2015 would be considered fair: four years, with $37 million guaranteed. Because Osweiler (before his deal or since) never seemed as polished as Garoppolo was in his two games as a starter in 2016, and because the salary cap continues to soar, the argument could be made that Garoppolo deserves something even richer. 

Though Garoppolo is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency following the 2017 season, there is a chance he doesn't get there quite that quickly. The Patriots could try to come to some kind of agreement with their backup quarterback on an extension that would keep him in New England, or they could place the franchise tag on him following the season. 

Either way, Garoppolo will get paid. But until he sees more time on the field, a deal that would pay him in the same range as his draft classmate will probably be out of reach.