[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="389741"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]Unfortunately, it has become a weekly tap dance.
Each week one of the first things that Bill Belichick is asked about in his traditional day-after-game conference call with the New England media is for an update on the status of the latest Patriots player to go down with an injury.
And, each week, the always-tight-lipped Patriots coach offers little in the way of such an update. Previous injuries have resulted in guys landing on injured reserve (Nate Solder/torn bicep), expected to miss significant time (Julian Edelman/foot) or seemingly avoiding a major injury (Danny Amendola/knee).
Early reports from NFLN, ESPN and others indicate Rob Gronkowski may fortunately end up in the final category after being carted off the field in the fourth quarter in Denver with a right knee injury, but Belichick didn't have much to offer on the All-Pro in his call with the local media and in fact emphasized he'd rather be sure of the situation than speculate too early on in the process.
That feeling as well as a few other key points from the loss in Denver filled out the coach's chat with reporters coming off a loss for the first time this fall.
1. "More important to be right" on Gronkowski:In this fast-paced, need-news-now world an injury to a star player on the top team in the top sport in America is reason for endless speculation and information thirst. But Belichick made it quite clear in his Monday afternoon conference call that the process in determining the health of Gronkowski is far from complete and that until there is some definitive diagnoses, the coach will simply hope for the best for his key offensive cog.
"I mean we're not even 24 hours after the game, so. Look, I know everybody wants an instant analysis, but I think it's more important to be right than to jump in and start talking about a lot of stuff that's inaccurate," Belichick said before going on to explain that it's unfortunate to ever seen any player carted off the field.
"We always hope for the best for all of our players. I mean that will never change. Our players work hard and give us everything they got. I hate to see anything happen to anybody. So, of course, we're hoping for the best."
2. NFL can explain PI calls, not Belichick: Before Gronkowski left with the injury in Denver, he was the center of discussion regarding a pair of questionable offensive pass interference flags. The second call, in particular, wiped out a 10-yard third-down conversion and led to a Patriots punt with the team holding on to just a 21-17 lead late in the game. Gronkowksi now has five OPI calls on the season as the league is clearly cracking down in that area, to the point where it seems to have gone way too far with the flags.
Belichick didn't want to discuss the topic, though, deferring the questions to the league.
"Again I think any of those questions should be directed toward the league," Belichick said. "And it doesn't really matter what I think. It's more something that they should comment on."
In fact, reaching out to the league is actually what Belichick does when there is confusion on a rules questions or interpretation of the way the game is being officiated.
"Any time a player asks you about a rule, if you know the rule then you explain to him what it is and how it's being applied. If you don't know the rule, then I would call Dean [Blandino, NFL V.P. of Officiating] get an explanation from him and then tell the player what the correct interpretation of it is. That's how we try to handle it."
Belichick was a little more forthcoming in his response to a query about a strange few seconds in the fourth quarter when a Broncos injury on defense led Denver to being charged with an "excess timeout" that stopped the clock before it quickly restarted and seemingly caught the Patriots ill-prepared as precious seconds ticked away.
"Well I think that's been covered. I'm sure the league would give you the same explanation that they gave to me, the way they handled the play," Belichick said. "I think the way that it was ruled was right. The communication and so forth involved in the play and all that, you know, probably could have been handled better somehow in the process. But…let them explain it to you. They are the ones that write the rules. They're the ones that interpret them. So they can talk about it. It's no problem."
3. Running late in the second quarter, passing in the fourth?: Late in the second quarter, the Patriots got the ball with 2:07 to play before the half. New England had a 14-7 lead at that point, three timeouts and was set to get the ball to open the second half. But, beginning from their own 20, the visitors showed little aggression and ran the ball five-straight times seemingly content to run out the clock and go to the locker room.
Later, New England took an opposite approach when it had the ball on its own 25 with 4:07 to play and clinging to a 21-17 lead. After one LeGarrette Blount run for 1 yard, New England threw the ball four straight times despite the fact that Denver had just one remaining timeout.
Belichick was asked about the differing approaches to clock and scoreboard strategy.
"We considered all our options both those times. They're two totally different situations and the way that Denver played them was also totally different in terms of the way their defense was deployed and who they had in there and what they were trying to do and so forth. We tried to attack them the best way that we … what we thought was best. So that's why we did what we did."