Bill Belichick took the bull by the horns and opened his Thursday morning press conference in the media work room at Gillette Stadium with a statement regard the situation surrounding Pro Bowl defensive end Chandler Jones.
Jones was sent a local hospital on Sunday morning with a reported "medical injury."
The pass rusher was then at work Monday morning and has taken part in all meetings and practices this week as New England prepares to take on the Chiefs in the Divisional Playoff Saturday evening in Foxborough.
While the Jones topic led to a quick and at-times contentious back-and-forth sparring between Belichick and the media in attendance, his press conference also touched on the health status (sort of) of All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski and his team's general state heading into its biggest game of the season.
1. "I'm done talking. We issued a statement. That's it.": While the Patriots issued a short written statement on Tuesday evening regarding the situation with Jones, today was the first time Belichick met with the media. Before the assembled press could question the coach on the strange situation surrounding one of his best defensive players, Belichick beat them to the punch.
"First of all, relative to Chandler's situation, there is nothing that is more important to me personally than the health and well-being of our players and the support people in the organization," Belichick said to open his press conference. "So that's the way it is with this organization and me personally. I don't think that will ever change. We issued a statement on that and I really don't have anything to add to it."
After one unrelated question, Belichick was asked a series of queries that he deflected before cutting off the Jones talk.
How do you balance dealing with players' personal situations and the business of football?
"That's what we do. Every situation is different. Right now our focus is on Kansas City," Belichick said.
How will this situation affect Jones usage on Saturday against the Chiefs?
"We'll find out on Saturday. I could just Xerox a copy of the game plan. You could just send that over to Kansas City. It might be easier for all of us," Belichick responded.
Do the fans have a right to know more?
"I've already covered this," Belichick said.
Do you look deeper into something like that, medical situation?
"I've already covered it."
But not that aspect.
"I just answered the question."
Do you look at the health aspect more deeply?
"I said there is nothing more important than the health and well-being of the staff and players. So, to me that covers it," Belichick declared.
Have you addressed this with the team overall?
"What I say to the team is between me and the team. I talk to the team every day," Belichick said.
Is there disappointment something like this crops up at this important time of year?
"I mean, are there any more questions about the Chiefs here? The rest of it, I'm done talking. We issued a statement. That's it," Belichick concluded.
2. Gronkowski's status?: Gronkowski was not see on the field on Tuesday for the media viewing portion of practice at Gillette Stadium. He was on the field during the same period on Wednesday and later listed as limited for the overall workout due to the knee injury he suffered back on Nov. 29 in Denver. Various outlets described his Tuesday absence as resulting from a "minor ailment."
Still, nothing is minor in when it revolves around one of New England's most important players at the most important time of the season. Belichick was asked if there was concern with Gronkowski missing practice and then being limited.
"We'll list the players after practice, like we do every day." Belichick said, offering no specific information to the question at hand.
3. Focal point: While there are a lot of distractions this week in Foxborough given the Jones situation, Gronkowski missing practice time and Belichick sporting a black eye at the press conference podium, the coach seemed rather upbeat about his team's focus heading into the postseason opener. New England is looking to take its first step toward defending its Super Bowl title and advancing to a record-tying fifth-straight AFC title game on Saturday. It certainly sounds like Belichick is happy with the approach his players are taking this key work week.
"I think the team's excited about getting ready for the game. Obviously it's a big game against a great team, a team that's playing very well," Belichick said. "Everything is pointed toward us being at our best, optimal performance on Saturday afternoon. That's what we're all pointed toward. That's what we're all working toward. That's where we hope to be. We have a little over two days, a little over 48 hours to pull it together here. That's kind of where we are. We've had a good week of preparation and we need to just tie up some loose ends, some situational stuff, and be ready to go."