Former Patriots first-round pick and Pro Bowl wide receiver Terry Glenn died in a car accident early Monday morning in Texas at the age of 43.
Glenn was drafted with the No. 7 overall pick out of Ohio State in 1996. He caught a then NFL rookie record 90 passes that fall to help the Patriots to Super Bowl XXX.
In six seasons in New England Glenn caught 329 passes for 4,669 yards with 22 touchdowns, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl in 1999. He had a tumultuous career in Foxborough, especially during his final season of 2001 in which he played in just four games, missing time to a hamstring injury, suspension and deactivation. He was traded to the Packers prior to the 2002 season and then finished his career with five years in Dallas.
Bill Belichick coached Glenn first as an assistant on Bill Parcells' Patriots staff in 1996 and then for two seasons as New England's head coach from 2000-01.
During his weekly Monday morning conference call with the New England media, Belichick spoke about the death of his former receiver.
"I was pretty close with Terry," Belichick began. "His rookie season was my first year here in '96, so I had a lot of interaction with him and other people that were involved in his life and his upbringing separate from the Patriots. Terry was a very smart individual, had a lot of, obviously, a lot of physical skill and talent, could do a lot of things on the football field very naturally. I think he was deep down inside a good person with good intentions and a good heart. Obviously, it's a very unfortunate passing. I mean, it's just sad. It's a sad day. It's sad news."
Beyond his comments on Glenn, the rest of Belichick's conference call dealt with a streaking New England team that's won six in a row after Sunday afternoon's blowout of the Raiders in Mexico City.
Some of the game-related highlights of Belichick's chat with the media included comments on the Patriots overall improvement in recent weeks, praise for the depth players on his roster and an explanation of Marquis Flowers' key forced fumble in Sunday's win.
1. "Players have worked extremely hard" to improve: After emphatically taking care of business against Oakland, New England is tied for the best record in the AFC at 8-2. The Patriots have a six-game winning streak. They outscored the Broncos and Raiders by a combined score of 74-24.
The recent run of success has included more points on offense and a lot fewer points allowed – six straight games with the opposition held to 17 or less. Early-season issues with penalties and pass protection have been much improved.
In so many ways, Belichick's team has rounded into impressive midseason form in the last few weeks. The coach was asked to speak about that consistent improvement.
"I think the players have worked extremely hard. We've had our moments," Belichick said before turning his attention to what's ahead. "There's still a lot of things that we need to work on and need to improve in. Each game gets a little more demanding because you're opponent has had another week of things that you know they've shown and you have to work on, and so the volume builds up. Of course, our volume has built up over the last ten weeks, too. We just have to keep grinding away week by week, and that's what we'll try to do."
2. "Doesn't surprise" Belichick so see players stepping up:Like all NFL teams, New England has dealt with injuries and roster changes in recent weeks. Despite the turnover the winning has chugged right along with the Patriots getting plenty of contributions from numerous backups and rotational players, including on Sunday afternoon in Mexico City. Tom Brady threw the ball all over the field behind a line that included fill-in starters at both center (Ted Karras) and right tackle (LaAdrian Waddle). Defensively the rotation of players contributing includes guys like late-comers Ricky Jean Francois and Trevor Reilly as well as former special teams specialists Johnson Bademosi and Marquis Flowers.
All have found ways to contribute to the wins, increasing the depth and personnel options that Belichick and his coaching staff have to work with on a weekly basis, whether it be out of need or by choice.
"Every player in our system is an important player whether they're on the active roster, inactive game day roster, practice squad, injured reserve, NFI, whatever it happens to be. Everybody in our system has the opportunity and hopefully the ability to help us at some point, whether that's this week, next week or, in some cases, next year," Belichick explained. "If we have them and we're working with them and they're working, then they're working towards that goal of being able to contribute to the team on the field. It's a hard working group. It encompasses really a lot of names, a lot of guys, and many of our players who are some of our more productive players now were at one time in those roles. So, they know how important it is and our players who are working to have a bigger role on the team know that if they continue to work hard and improve and work at it day by day, that there could be an opportunity for them. Everybody is doing the same thing. It's just a question of sometimes the opportunity to do it. When that comes or how it manifests itself is sometimes unpredictable and can change in a hurry.
"It's a good group, a hardworking group and it doesn't surprise me to see players continue to perform well when they get an opportunity to do that because of the work that they do on the practice field, and off the field in meetings, and in their training sessions and so forth."
3. Marquis Flowers' big forced fumble:Though New England's latest win ended up being a bit of a laugher, the Raiders were driving for a chance to keep the game close in the second quarter. Trailing 14-0, Oakland drove from its own 25 down to the New England 3, looking like it would cut the deficit in half heading into halftime.
But that's when Marquis Flowers, Jonathan Jones and the loose ball-handling of Raiders wide receiver Seth Roberts converged to kickstart the blowout. After a catch brought Roberts to the 3, Jones held up the Raiders receiver, spinning him around to the point where Flowers was able to punch the ball free with Patrick Chung recovering the loose ball for the turnover. A few seconds later Stephen Gostkowski hit a 62-yard field goal and New England went to the locker room up 17-0.
Belichick explained the situation that led to the big play by Flowers and Co.
"One thing that can create opportunities for the defense is a struggling runner, a runner that's trying to gain extra yards, and those guys are tough because they're hard to bring down and they gain yards after contact," Belichick said of Roberts nearing the goal line. "They have great balance, and sometimes quickness, and ability, like lower body strength, ability to gain extra yards after the initial contact, but when that happens, then that gives the second and third men coming into the play sometimes an opportunity to cause ball disruption and finish off the tackle.
"It was a great awareness play by Marquis. We had guys hustling to the ball and were able to come up with it, and that's always a good thing. The more guys you have around the ball, the better opportunity you'll have to recover it. That's about the way I saw it."