Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was a man of few words of explanation in his press conference following Sunday afternoon's shutout loss to the Bills.
Things weren't too much different Monday morning during the coach's traditional day-after-game conference call with the New England media.
Not even Tom Brady's return from suspension was enough to lift Belichick's seemingly lowly spirits, as even the idea that TB12 could have a major positive impact moving forward was dismissed as "speculation" by his coach.
Whether it was Brady's return, Jimmy Garoppolo's health that led to him being inactive against Buffalo, Sunday's officiating or any other topic, all were pretty much met with limited responses from Belichick.
In fact his tone may have been best expressed in his answer to questions asking for him to assess rookie returner Cyrus Jones' transition to the NFL.
"A lot of room for improvement for everybody," Belichick said, reiterating his message from the previous evening. "You can put everybody in to that category."
Beyond that, and a few times in which he advised reporters to call the league because they have the answers, here are a few specific highlights from Belichick's morning conference call.
1. "Great to have Tom and Rob back": As of Monday both Brady and defensive end Rob Ninkovich were eligible to return to the Patriots from their four-game suspensions to open the season. Teams are generally given roster exemptions from the league for a period of time for players returning from suspension, but Belichick said he didn't have "an exact answer" as to the status of any potential exemptions at this point.
Though it's clear that any team would benefit from getting back it's starting quarterback, especially one who's arguably the best in the game at the position, Belichick took a rather measured approach when asked how Brady's presence might impact New England moving forward.
"It would just be speculation at this point," Belichick declared. "He hasn't done it. I mean it's great to have Tom and Rob back. But I mean I can't answer the question, I haven't seen it. It would just be pure speculation. It's good to have them back. I'm not going to speculate on what will or won't happen on anything going forward because that's all it would be, it would just be speculation.
Only time will tell how quickly Brady can get up to speed with a team that already has a month of football under its belt.
"We'll just take it day-by-day. We'll see where he's at and just go forward one day at a time," Belichick said, going on to explain that Brady's settling in will be both physical and mental. "Football is everything. I don't know how you can do one thing or not do something else. You have to be able to do it all."
2. With Gronkowski limited, "Marty's done a good job": Rob Gronkowski missed the first two games with a hamstring injury and over the last two contests has been used primarily as a blocker against the Texans and Bills, catching just a single pass. While the All-Pro has been working his way back into his more traditional role of domination as a pass-catcher, offseason trade addition Martellus Bennett has been holding down the fort. On Sunday that included his second 100-yard receiving day in the last three weeks, though the veteran newcomer has also done the dirty work in the trenches. It's call combined for a rave review from his new head coach at the quarter-pole of the season.
"I think Marty's done a good job. Worked hard. He's done a good job in all areas of the game: pass protection, passing game, blocking. He's handled a lot of different assignments, which is part of that position. Yeah, he's done a good job for us," Belichick said.
3. Chris Hogan's penalties showed up on tape: The Patriots had a chance to get off to a fast start with a big play against Buffalo. After faking the jet sweep to his slot receiver, Jacoby Brissett hit Julian Edelman on a quick throw that the slippery target turned into a 90-yard play down to the Bills 1. Unfortunately for New England, wide receiver Chris Hogan was flagged for both holding and pass interference in space on the right side of the field where Edelman scooted past for the field-flipping catch-and-run.
Asked what he saw on the play in terms of the Hogan penalties, Belichick had a simple answer.
"I saw what was called," Belichick said.
He was a little more vague in his thoughts on a call in the second quarter when the Patriots were kept from hurrying to the line for a short yardage play because the officials weren't ready.
Belichick said it's the "officials' call in that situation" before urging reporters to "go talk to the league or ask [referee] Pete Morelli" for an explanation.
4. Garoppolo was inactive, "inactive players can't play": Jimmy Garoppolo was inactive for the second straight game due to the AC sprain in his right shoulder suffered two weeks earlier against the Dolphins. Both Garoppolo and Brissett were listed as limited in practice last week and questionable to play against the Bills, but in the end the third-year backup wasn't able to get to the field on Sunday. Belichick was asked of Garoppolo himself "made" or "contributed to the decision" for him not to play against Buffalo.
"The decision to make him inactive was just like the decision to make the other six players inactive. I mean we do that every game. Every game there are seven inactives," Belichick said.
Were the Patriots surprised that Garoppolo couldn't play?
"We listed him on the injury report with everybody else. So that's…we listed it based on, that's what we based it on on Friday when we're required to list that. That's what we did. Just like we did with everybody else that was or wasn't on it. If they weren't on it, then that was their status. If they were on it, then that was their status based on what we knew at that time."
Did you feel like he had a chance to play?
"We listed the inactive players as inactive. The inactive players can't play," Belichick said.