You might think being the monarch of a Dynasty in a time of worldwide pandemic, keeping 80 players and dozens of coaches and assistants adhering to confusing, ever-changing NFL protocols and state mandates while still having to field a team and prepare them to compete for a championship for the 21st time would be too much for any 68-year-old. And you'd be right. It would break any man. Fortunately, Bill Belichick is no mere man.
Belichick did a conference call with the media today in which he was asked about how he's managing to keep everybody in his empire safe while getting them ready for the season with so many restrictions in place. Here are some of the highlights.
On how the team is managing, in general:
“It’s a good working environment. We’re getting a lot done. The organization has taken a lot of steps to ensure everyone’s safety and opportunity to do their job and do it safely and do it productively. Certainly there’s a lot of responsibility on each one of us to do things in a way that don’t affect others negatively, that we take the proper precautions that we can and should. So that’s what we’re doing.
“It’s a little bit different. Maybe a little bit more time-consuming and just more precautionary, but I think we’ve tried to address everything, and we’ve asked the players — and they’ve been great — we’ve asked the players for their input. If they see something that looks a little like it needs to be adjusted or corrected or whatever, they’re good to bring it up, and then we take a look at it and do what we can to, whatever the situation is, try to improve it."
On how his staff is adjusting to virtual meetings:
“Collectively, I think things went better than I thought they were going to go, to tell you the truth. Going forward, it might be something that I probably never even would have considered a year ago. Now, after having a pretty significant amount of experience with it, I could see where there might be a place for it in the future. So, that’s kind of where we are on it.
"So collectively, I thought things went better than I thought they were going to go, to tell you the truth. I thought they went pretty good. We followed up on it, and going forward, it might be something that I never would've even considered a year ago. Now after having a pretty significant amount of experience with it, I could see where there might be a place for it in the future."
On the physical layout they've set up:
"We’re very fortunate here. We have a stadium. We have a big facility. I know there are other teams that are dealing in a much smaller training facility. We have a lot of big spaces and open space that we can work with, and that’s very helpful in the environment that we’re in. We have great food service, a big training room, weight room and so forth, so we’re able to accommodate — with the visitors’ locker room, when you add that in — we’re able to accommodate 80 people pretty comfortable. Of course, we have some plexiglass and things like that up that take things a step further, but we’re able to handle the number of people and what we would normally do, and it’s been pretty effective. … But to me, those are relatively minor things. So I’d say overall, we’re doing things pretty close to the way we usually do them with more masks, more plexiglass, for sure. I don’t know what the plexiglass bill around here is, but it’s got to be pretty high.”
On how different day-to-day life in camp is:
“You know, honestly, I wouldn’t say any of it has just been overwhelming. We wear masks. There’s not a buffet line for food; the food’s ordered and it’s boxed and packaged. The dining staff has done a great job. The meetings are in bigger rooms. We’re more spread out, but essentially it’s the same meeting. We’re just distanced and wearing masks. I think everybody’s just a little more conscious of the hand washing, the sanitizing, the distancing, you know, we wear monitors and all that. It’s just a higher awareness of it. "
On conducting practices so far:
"Yesterday was the first day that we had a walk-through with both the offense and defense on the field at the same time, so prior to yesterday we were defense against defense, offense against offense. Yesterday was our first chance to do that. I would say it looked to me like all the coaches coached and the players played pretty much like we always do other than masks and some other modifications, things like that. Nah, I didn't see any substantial difference."
"Fundamentally, we’re still going over the same material in a similar progression. We have walkthroughs, we have meetings, we have training and conditioning, we’re going to eventually have individual drills when we get to phase two, then when we get to phase three and have 11-on-11 drills."
In image form, Covid presents Belichick with a series of significant logistical challenges, and he responds accordingly.
While the local, state and federal governments are in chaos, business leaders are confused and our academic institutions don't know what to do, this guy doesn't need any help or advice, thanks. He's got this. Changes needed to be made, so he made them. Coaching methods had to adapt, so he's adapted. A guy that admits "I'm at the bottom of that tech list" and famously can't change the time on his car clock,
Is embracing the Zoom meeting as a coaching tool, something that the vast majority of us had never heard of as recently as March.
And yet, for all those changes and all that adapting, it's still business as usual at Gillette. Not a big deal. Nothing he can't handle. That is not surviving in a time of The 'Vid. That is thriving. All hail our Dark Lord.