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Bruised-but-not-beaten Belichick shows softer side

FOXBORO, Mass. – Save the occasional outburst at a referee, public displays of emotion are rare for Bill Belichick.

But this past week has been a trying one, to say the least, for New England's head coach. He's been forced to do a number of things that he is unaccustomed to doing.

On Monday, though, a mere 12 hours after his team's convincing 38-14 victory over the San Diego Chargers, a visibly relaxed Belichick opened up a bit. He began his daily press conference by reiterating what he'd said immediately after Sunday night's game.

"I thought the fan support was terrific. You could really feel them behind us in this game. I was touched by some of the support that they gave. It was a good feeling."

He did not address, nor was he asked, about speculation that he'd recently signed a long-term contract extension with the Patriots. But Belichick spoke with reporters this day like a man who's content with his job status.

"This team has a lot confidence in our fans and I kind of feel like the fans have confidence in us. It's a good situation."

Patriots owner Robert Kraft, interviewed by NBC at halftime Sunday night, told a nationwide audience that Belichick has "made great contributions to this franchise over the last seven years and myself, and all of our fans, truly appreciate his efforts."

Kraft later reinforced his words by presenting Belichick with the game ball.

"I appreciated it. It was a nice gesture," Belichick acknowledged.

In addition to the fans and owner, Belichick's players, like captain Tedy Bruschi, have stayed by his side throughout this continuing ordeal.

"This might be the most satisfying win of all," Bruschi ventured in the post-game locker room.

"I've never been in a situation where people were doubting us, our integrity. I care about that [Patriots] logo, as much as anyone in here. And I care about how we're perceived. What we do is win football games. What we did tonight speaks volumes about who we are."

Belichick said he was moved by Bruschi's out-pouring.

"It meant a lot. Nobody has more heart on this team than Tedy Bruschi."

When the focus of the conversation shifted back to the Charger game, Belichick used the opportunity to recall a light-hearted memory.

He was asked to reflect on LB Adalius Thomas' impressive interception return for a touchdown, during which Thomas outraced a few Charger skill-position players at lightning speed. A smile on his face and a chuckle in his tone, Belichick compared the play to that of another linebacker he once coached.

"It reminded me of the play against Detroit when I was with the Giants when Lawrence Taylor intercepted a pass on the goal line. It was a goal line pass and he went down the sideline. Now they were chasing him for a while, but they didn't chase him all the way because everyone was on the goal line, it was kind of a packed-in formation.

"But Lawrence kept looking over his shoulder and he saw the shadows of himself and he thought it was another player chasing him. So even though he was out in front of the whole team by probably 40 or 50 yards on the second half of the run, he was running like there was a guy that was about to dive and trip him up by the ankles.

"You don't see a lot of those, but it was nice to see it last night."

Belichick even took a softer tack when confronted by reporters, one of whom raised the latest touchy subject: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's request for additional notes and videotapes from the Patriots.

"I think that's a fair question," he responded. Belichick wouldn't get into specifics, but did indicate he plans to comply fully with the league's demands.

"Are there more videos?" a persistent reporter wanted to know.

The grin slowly returned to Belichick's face as his latent sense of humor found its way to the surface.

"I think that right now we need to spend our time watching a lot of video on Buffalo," he replied good-naturedly, "and we'll do that."

The Patriots host their division-rival Bills this Sunday here at Gillette Stadium. And for the first time in days, Belichick, it appears, is happy to be back at work.

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