The Patriots Have Been Putting Football Aside to Talk Race & Justice and Are Praising Belichick for His Leadership

Last week when Drew Brees was taking fire from all direction for giving just about the wrongest answer at the wrongest time to the question about National Anthem protests, I mentioned that Tom Brady had been ask the same question before:

... and talked about open and candid conversations his teammates had during the 2017 season to come to an understanding and formulate a game plan for how to respond together, as a unified front. His answer was a perfect as the way a locker room of different guys of vastly different backgrounds and life experiences handled what could've been a really difficult discussion. 

And by all accounts, the 2020 Patriots are having similar conversations this week in their virtual meetings. And one unnamed player mentioned how productive the talks have been and gave credit to Bill Belichick for facilitating it:

And the most respected leaders in the clubhouse are talking about it too. First, Matthew Slater went on NBC Sport's Boston's football "Next Pats Podcast," to pretty much echo was Mike Girardi was told.

"I think coach has a good, healthy understanding of the gravity of the situation and the times that we're living in," Slater said. "I think he's done a good job of trying to listen, trying to learn and hear from his players and try to navigate this as best as he can.

"Look, I understand what his job is. His job is to coach the football team and get the football team ready to be successful, and nothing's going to take his focus away from that. But I do think that it's important, as he has done, to hear from his players and understand that, 'Hey, at the end of the day, football is temporary.' What we're left with is who we are as people, the values and beliefs and our experiences, and the results of those experiences. That's what we're going to be left with.

"So I'm sure that he'll continue to be open and receptive to us having dialogue. I'm thankful for what he has done thus far as far as that process is concerned

Then Jason and Devin McCourty went into depth about the talks on their "Double Coverage" pod:

We have had a bunch of good conversations over the last week that I think have been very healthy for our team,” Devin said. “Honestly, I think it has been very healthy for individuals to be able to express themselves with people to see other people’s points of views. I have thoroughly enjoyed that — even though we’re not together, which usually when things like this happen. It is just so easy for us because we’re in the cafeterias, we’re in the locker rooms, we’re talking about these things because we are pretty close as guys and we talk a lot about family things and things like that.”

I'm not singling the Patriots out as the only team dealing with all this in a respectful, productive way. I'd appreciate hearing this coming out of all 32 clubs and hopefully we will. It'd be good for humanity. But the Patriots are my professional focus and I have more information about what they're doing so I'm going with it. 

One of the true positives of an NFL lockerroom is that it's a sort of social experiment. You put dozens of adult men from all different walks of life, family situations, financial strata, generations, temperaments, political views, religious faiths, ethnic backgrounds and nationalities (New England has a guy from Denmark and another from Toronto by way of St. Vincent & the Grenadines) into a single environment and try to get them to work together for a common goal. 

It can't be easy. It must have to take enormous amounts of give and take and developing empathy for people whose life experiences you've never shared. Real life doesn't always work like Gerry Bertier and Julius Campbell going from bitter enemies to telling the nurse at the hospital they're brothers. 

And it's obvious that the only way to really get to that point is to be able to have open discussions where the goal is to come to a mutual understanding. Obvious, but not simple. As you can see anytime you log onto any social media platform, where the "Oh, so what you're saying"ism is at an all time high. But it sounds like that strong Patriots locker room we've always heard about - but that hasn't always been a good fit for everyone - is having the kinds of honest conversations that are way too rare. The 90 or so guys on that roster and however many coaches are a tiny, infinitesimal corner of the world. But if they can make it work by talking, maybe there's hope for the country yet.