INDIANIAPOLIS – First things first, Bill Belichick did not even break stride to pose with the Lombardi Trophy at his final Super Bowl week press conference Friday morning at the media center inside the J.W. Marriot hotel.
The three-time Super Bowl champion head coach marched past a display table with the Lombardi sandwiched between Patriots and Giants helmets. Later in the day, New York coach Tom Coughlin paused to allow for the customary pre-Super Bowl photo opportunity.
Prior to ignoring the trophy he's brought back to New England three previous times, Belichick recapped his team's experience in the Circle City.
"It's been a good week for our football team here in Indianapolis. The city and the accommodations all the way around, the practice facility, the hotel - everything here has been really outstanding," Belichick raved. "I think our team has enjoyed the week here. We've had a good week of preparation. I know we've got a big challenge here Sunday against the Giants, (a) great football team, well-coached, a lot of outstanding players. Of course, we faced them earlier in the season, so we have a good sense of that. I feel like our team has had a good week. I feel like we'll be ready to go, and we're looking forward, excited to be representing the AFC in this game. It's a big challenge for us, but one that we're excited to face."
A couple questions into the press conference, Belichick was asked about a theory that has been quietly stirring through Patriots Nation that the coach might potentially pull aJohn Elway and try to go out on top – possibly considering retiring if he were to beat the Giants for his fourth title in New England.
"Right now, I'm really thinking, 'What's the best thing I can do to help our football team on Sunday against the Giants?' I want to really try to do a good job in the job that I have. I enjoy all the aspects of the job," Belichick said, without directly answering the question. "I enjoy the team-building, the drafting, the free agents, team acquisitions - those kind of things. I enjoy bringing in the young players and working with guys who haven't been in the NFL and teaching them the basic fundamentals in how to become a professional football player for the New England Patriots.
"I enjoy working with the veteran players, the Tom Bradys and the Vince Wilforks and the Wes Welkers and all those kind of players that can do really special things because of their not only talent, but experience. I enjoy the competition on a weekly basis. Not just on Sundays, but the preparation leading up into the game. I enjoy all of it. It beats working. It's fun to address those challenges on a daily basis, so right now I'm really focused on the game and that's where my energy is going to go, toward doing the best I can for the New England Patriots against the Giants on Sunday."
Updating the news of the week, Belichick said that All-Pro second-year tight end Rob Gronkowski showed no ill effects from practicing on Thursday, his first return to the field since injuring his left ankle in the AFC Championship Game win over the Ravens.
"I think he was OK this morning. I think he was OK," Belichick revealed. "I don't think we had any setbacks. We'll see how it goes out there today, but I think that he's been on a…Rob's worked extremely hard. He's gotten treatment morning, noon, and night, and he's gotten better on a daily basis. Hopefully we'll be able to continue that same process today, tomorrow, and all day Sunday. We'll see where that takes us, but I think he's coming along. We'll just have to see where he gets to, but we're certainly moving in the right direction and getting better on a daily basis."
Belichick was also somewhat revealing in telling reporters that his team would remain in its current hotel through the weekend, rather than switching to a secret, isolated locale on Saturday night. The Giants are also remaining in their downtown Indy hotel.
Four years ago, some players – including current NFL Network analyst Heath Evans – complained about the somewhat customary Saturday night hotel switch and that it added stress and anxiety to the pregame process.
"We will be in our team hotel, yes. I don't know if that's downtown or not. It's kind of semi-downtown, but yeah, we'll be there," Belichick said. "Today we'll have kind of a Friday/Saturday type of practice and then tomorrow we'll go over to the stadium. We'll do team pictures. We'll do some things in our Saturday night meeting and be ready to go on Sunday. We're kind of combining these next couple days into a one where it's an extended type of Saturday preparation."
Asked about his own work week, Belichick said he "slept like a baby" as he normally does during the season. In the end, the future Hall of Fame coach seemed to be enjoying his eighth career trip to the Super Bowl, his fifth as New England's head coach.
Now, all that's left is a Saturday team picture at Lucas Oil Stadium, a few more meetings and then the biggest game of the year.
"Every Super Bowl is special, and it's a real privilege to be involved. I know this is my eighth one as a head or assistant coach, but it's what you work for all year going all the way back to February or March when you start putting your team together and training camp and all the meetings," Belichick said. "It's like 111 practices a year, or whatever it is, but it's a long haul. To be able to get here is what you work for, so it's a great experience. Each one is different. They're all special, and it's really a great reward for all the hard work and competitive success that we've had on the field throughout the course of the year to be able to be here and represent our conference in this great game. Happy to be here. Very happy to be here."