FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Coach Bill Belichick might have been tight-lipped with reporters at the NFL’s annual owners meetings in Arizona last week, but he was especially vocal behind the scenes on one topic he believes would benefit the game. He wants more time to work with players in the offseason, which struck a positive chord among his fellow coaches.
“I’m in total support of his position,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told ESPN.com. “There’s so much down time for these guys. I think there was a time when older players were bargaining for these breaks when they thought less was better. But these guys [today] love the game and want to be part of it. And we love coaching and helping them.
“The game would just be better if we were able to do that, and if we were in connection with them more, they would be healthier as well — we could monitor their well-being. You don’t even have to mandate that. Just give them the option.”
When the most recent collective bargaining agreement was struck in 2011, offseason programs were reduced by five weeks.
As for how the topic surfaced at last week’s annual meeting, it was described to me that the context of Belichick’s remarks came as coaches, general managers and others were being briefed on the successes of the league as it enters its 100th season. Belichick then passionately chimed in, and essentially said something along the lines of: While it is nice to hear good things, the focus should be on how it can be even better. One of the ways to do that, he said, was giving coaches more time with players.
“There’s so many positive things that could come out of it, in terms of development of young players, helping to really make sure these guys are learning the game and getting them ready for their opportunity,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera told ESPN.com. “Keeping players in a structured atmosphere, there are so many tools we have in terms of player development, it makes so much sense that the sooner we can get them and work with them, the better it will be.”
Given Belichick’s standing as a six-time Super Bowl-winning coach who enters his 45th NFL season, his advocacy on the issue was well-received.
“It has a tremendous amount of weight,” Rivera said of Belichick leading the discussion on the topic, while also crediting Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid for taking a similar approach on league issues.
“He’s one of the soothsayers. He deserves that and has earned that,” Carroll said of Belichick. “He’s been very active, and we all appreciate it.”