HOUSTON – Moving on from the made-for-TV event of Monday's Super Bowl Opening Night, Bill Belichick held his first traditional press conference of the week at the Patriots J.W. Marriott headquarters.
The midday Tuesday meeting with the media preceded Tom Brady and nine other Patriots also talking with reporters at the team's hotel.
The 20-plus minute presser included a wide variety of queries regarding his team, his players and the spot the Patriots are in this week with a chance to secure a fifth Lombardi Trophy in a battle with the Falcons at Super Bowl LI.
While Belichick wasn't looking to spend much time thinking about his own legacy as he hits his 10th career Super Bowl – multiple times he redirected focus toward preparations for Atlanta – he did express how special the experience is, especially sharing it with his sons as part of his football staff in New England.
"It's certainly an honor to be in this game," Belichick said. "It's a privilege to represent the AFC in this championship game. To have been in it that many times is special and it's special this year with Brian and Steven on the staff as well. But it's special to be here. There is no question about that."
Belichick answered a number of questions on topics such as Malcolm Butler's unique arrival in New England, the interesting second jobs/hobbies of long snapper Joe Cardona and special teams ace Nate Ebner, Tom Brady's value as a role model, his own energy level as a coach and how he'll manage his team's energy over a longer game day on Super Bowl Sunday.
Here are some of the highlights from Belichick's big Tuesday Super Bowl press conference.
1. Brady "able to put it all together better than any player I've ever coached": Belichick and Brady are the greatest winning combination in football history. They have backboned New England's modern NFL dynasty heading into their seventh Super Bowl together. Clearly Brady is a guy who many young players can learn from as a worker and performer, but Belichick made it clear that he wouldn't limit his quarterback's influence as a role model to just young teammates.
"Tom works very hard. Tom prepares well. He always has," Belichick said of Brady. "He's very diligent in his preparation. It's not up and down, it's consistent every week. In terms of learning the defense, learning the schemes, learning the players, getting our game plan, making sure that he knows what we're doing and how we're doing it. He's very smart. He has obviously a lot of experience in our system. He has a lot of experience against different defensive coordinators, against different players, against different situations. He's able to put it all together better than any player I've ever coached. I think his preparation allows him to do that, he has good football instincts as well. Certainly all players, all of us, coaches as well, that's a great role model for all of us. Anybody."
2. "This absolutely beats working": Belichick has been working an NFL sideline since 1975. After four decades in the league he's still the best coach in the game and shows no sign of his work, or his winning, slowing down. Even many of the greatest coaches in NFL history were not able to forge on as long and as successfully as Belichick.
So, how does he keep it up as a head coach in the NFL grind?
"I mean I don't really see it as work," Belichick said. "I always say this absolutely beats working. You get to do what you love to do with a lot of great people, have a great staff. The players work hard. They are very cooperative and compliant. They have a great attitude about teamwork and playing unselfishly and working unselfishly. It really doesn't feel like work. I try to give everybody an opportunity to do their job. We have a lot of people that do it very well, great coaching staff and a great group of players. I have a lot of respect for all of them. I try to stay out of the way and let them do their job. They all do it pretty well."
3. Patriots must "pace" themselves on Sunday night: On paper the Super Bowl is still just a 60-minute football game. But the reality is that it's a much longer day than the average game. Extended pregame and halftime ceremonies drag out the affair and tax the players' stamina in unique ways. It's something that 23 Patriots have experience with from the past, but keeping track of his team's energy level and pacing will be something Belichick focuses on heading into the biggest game of the season.
"That's a very challenging situation because there is so much leading up to the game. And it's a long game between pregame, the start of the game, halftime, TV time outs and so forth. It just extends longer than what it normally does, again including the pregame part of it," Belichick said. "We just have to try to pace ourselves through that. Some of that is nutrition and hydration and things like that. Part of it's just an understanding of what it's going to be like so you don't get surprised when you get into the middle of the game, the middle of the third quarter and that's kind of when the game would be ending but there is still another 20 minutes of play or so. So I think understanding that and making sure that the pace of the game for each individual, which is different … an offensive lineman or a defensive lineman's pace is different than receivers or defensive backs that are running 30, 40 or 50 yards. It's the difference between boxing and distance running. Then you have a lot of guys in between.
"So it's definitely challenging. But it's the same for both teams. Everybody needs to try to maximize all of those things that I just talked about. Their pace, so they don't burn out too soon. But it's a challenge."