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Belichick Canceled OTAs to Take His Players on a Journey Through Football History

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SourceBefore Bill Belichick canceled the New England Patriots’ final two voluntary organized team activities this week, he transformed parts of Gillette Stadium into a real-life “Back to the Future” movie.

Specifically, Belichick made Tuesday a wide-ranging history lesson on the roots of football, essentially creating an environment in which players were going back in time. That, of course, meant that there were leather helmets on the practice field, digital clocks covered up in the team meeting room, black-and-white recordings of old football plays shown, and a no-frills lunch menu that resembled what players in the 1930s and 1940s might have eaten (e.g., hamburgers and hot dogs rather than sushi).

“It was a lot of fun. We walked in and you could tell something different was going on than the normal practice day,” explained one player.

The 66-year-old Belichick, who had surprised many on the team the day before by taking the team to Fenway Park, has a well-documented appreciation for the history of the game. Now in his 19th year as head coach, he has been likened by some players over the years to a professor because of his teaching-based approach.

“The thing I’ve learned about Coach Belichick is that he loves history, loves the military, and any time he can incorporate teaching us about that, he loves to do it,” said one player who took part in Tuesday’s turn-back-the-clock day.

“It was cool for him to get a chance to teach us about the sport that we’re in, the National Football League and kind of how it started. We got to watch some old clips from football back then — the ’30s and ’40s — that I had never seen before. I didn’t know what type of offenses were run, so it was really neat to see. We even looked at high school football back then, all the way up to NFL.”

The discussion, with players in the room as young as 21 and coaches as old as 70, went beyond football.

“You think about it, if it was at a certain time back then, a lot of us wouldn’t be playing. We would have been drafted and fighting for our country [in World War II],” said a player. “When we do stuff like that, it’s special.”

Bite me, Lane Johnson! Hey Cassius Marsh, how’s Bill Belichick’s ass taste, huh? Who’s gonna be the next to step up and say the Patriots are miserable because their coach doesn’t let them have any fun? Anyone? Anyone? I thought so.

Belichick not only shows them fun, he shows them the best kind of fun. The kind with learning. And who doesn’t like that? Sure, there are some schools that take kids on field trips to Six Flags or wherever. But the kinds of field trips where you go to museums or take history tours are way better. Give me that sweet, sweet Natural History Museum or Freedom Trail walk any day. Like when I was in sixth grade they took us to visit the mansions in Newport, which was a learning experience I’ve never forgotten. Specifically it taught me how much opulent wealth the monopolists were making off the back breaking labor of my ancestors who were living in whiskey-soaked squalor. But the point is, I learned something. Unlike those kids riding the coasters.

See? Belichick isn’t a stern task master. Sure, he’s demanding. Yes, he expects you to give your best. But he also wants you to understand your place in this football universe and to have fun learning about it. He’s Miss Frizzle in cutoff sleeves, and Gillette is his Magic School Bus.

I am being 100 percent serious when I say I would’ve loved to have visited the little football history theme park he set up. I’m not exaggerating to say I could travel back Marty McFly style to anything that’s happened in 2018, that would be my choice. One, because I love football history stuff. No other sport has changed so much in the last century. None even come close. From those early days when every play was just 22 men made of pure testosterone ripping each other’s major organs out to the legalization of the forward pass and invention of the neutral zone and beyond. And no one appreciates or understands that evolution more than Steve Belichick’s kid. He’s already got a collection of football books that has to be like the Library of Alexandria (which I’m proud to say includes a signed copy of my book, humblebrag with absolutely no humble). And now we know he’s got the old black & white films and memorabilia as well. He’s like a one man gridiron Smithsonian who knows how to show a roster of 20- and 30-something football lifers how to have a good time. I’ll admit I’m a little jealous. But I’ll look past it and just be glad the Patriots are having all that fun no one believed they capable of.