Bill Belichick walked into the packed media workroom at Gillette Stadium Wednesday morning for his first press conference of training camp 2017.
The photo shoots and bike rides of summertime fun on Nantucket were clearly a thing of the past. Fall expectations and big picture questions were equally as distant from the Patriots coach's mind.
Make no mistake, Belichick made it quite clear many, many times that the defending champions have accomplished nothing at this point – neither as a team nor as individuals. Rather, the opening of camp with the first full-squad practice on Thursday morning represents the next step in the team-building process for the new season, work that began in the spring through the offseason program, OTAs and mini-camp work.
"It's always good to get started," Belichick said to open the press conference that included local, regional, national (ESPN/NFL Network) and even international (Germany) reporters. "New year. Starting all over again. A lot of new challenges. Some great competition out there. Lot of work to do. We're just going to take it one day at a time. Try to go out there and accomplish things every day. Try to continue to get better and improve on the things we need to work on.
"It will be a long haul, but I think we're all excited to get started."
He continued that fresh start theme in a response a bit later.
"This year is this year for all of us," the future Hall of Famer said. "None of us have done anything. We all have a long way to go. We all have a lot of work to do. We're all in the same boat. We're all pulling the same oar."
While discussing the work that needs to be done, Belichick looked forward to joint practices with the Jaguars (in Foxborough) and Texans (in West Virgina) that will take place in the coming weeks. He also revealed that the team will spend some time on the practice field with the Lions in Detroit prior to the third preseason game, though the team later clarified that would not be a traditional joint practice situation.
In terms of other news and notes, Belichick was asked if the entire team had reported on Wednesday?
"Ahhh, we'll have an update on the roster at some point," Belichick responded.
Beyond his general message establishing the fact that the much-heralded Patriots had yet to establish anything this summer, Belichick touched on many topics during his 15-minutes with the media. That included his first thoughts on the team's signing of veteran linebacker David Harris, some high praise for now-retired offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, reaction to the most recent CTE study and rave reviews for the entirety of his staff, much of which has now worked together for an extended time in New England.
1. "See how it goes" with David Harris: New England added some impressive veteran depth to the linebacker position with the signing of Harris after the longtime Jet was released by New York. The former Pro Bowler has been remarkably durable and productive in his decade in the NFL, attributes that could certainly help the New England defense this fall. "David's an experienced guy. He's played a lot of football," Belichick said in his first comments regarding the Harris signing. "He's been in this division. He has a pretty good familiarity with our opponents. But we haven't worked with him, so we'll see how it goes. He's had a very productive career. We'll see how it goes. Hopefully he'll be able to help us.
Belichick isn't, though, assuming Harris' impressive resume means the veteran will step right in and be ready to go in his new defense.
"I don't know. We haven't met with him. He hasn't practiced yet," Belichick said when asked about Harris' experience helping him get up to speed quickly.
2. 19-0?:There has been plenty of early speculation this offseason that the 2017 Patriots could be talented enough to have a chance at an undefeated season. Earlier this week USA Today even predicted a perfect season for the Patriots.
So it was no surprise that Belichick was asked about the high hopes for his team coming from the outside.
It was also no surprise that Belichick deflected the 19-0 query.
"Right now we're just trying to have a good day here today, get off to a good start in training camp. I'm not really worried about all that's in the future. That will come when it comes," Belichick said.
He did so again with a follow-up, going so far as to insinuate that he was unaware of the 19-0 talk.
"We're focused on one day at a time. I guess I've missed some of the great reading that you guys have had. Honestly, I don't really pay any attention to it. Sorry," Belichick said.
3. "Lot of respect for Seabass": Vollmer officially retired from football this offseason and is pursuing post-career opportunities, including some media work. And while the former second-round pick actually sat out all of last season due to injury, Belichick was asked by a reporter if he missed his former All-Pro caliber right tackle?
"Sebastian was a great player for us," Belichick said. "He played a lot of football. He played very well at a young age his rookie year against some great players – [Dwight] Freeney, [Robert] Mathis, guys like that. Unfortunately he didn't play for us last year. He was here but never got to play. So we've had life without Sebastian on the field for a year. But yes, we miss him. We understand that's the way it is in this game. He's moved on. We wish him well. We appreciate everything he's done for us. He was a great teammate, great player for us. He came a long way in the time from when he was in (college at) Houston to his rookie year here and play a lot of great football for us on both sides of the line, at left tackle and right tackle. Great player to coach, work with. Tough. Great teammate. A lot of respect for Seabass."
4. CTE talk best left to the experts: A new study on CTE reignited this week the ongoing focus on head injuries and concussions as they relate to the game of football. It has been a hot topic for quite some time and will continue to be so moving forward. Belichick was asked for his thoughts on the study, one that found CTE in the brains of 110 of 111 deceased men who played NFL football.
"I think the league addressed it," Belichick said of the latest study. "I don't really have much to add to the statement that they released. Obviously it's an important area that's being given a lot of attention, as it should."
The coach was then asked if he worries about the future of the game of football when a study like the latest CTE findings is released.
"Again, there are a lot of studies out there. I'm not really a medical expert. That's not really my field. So I think I'll leave that to the people who are doing it."