By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
In his final media availability of what is officially the preseason, Bill Belichick was as chatty as ever. The coach talked about the 1975 Colts, rattled off former Patriots players, and discussed in depth his strategy when building a practice squad.
With the regular season beginning in just a few days, it’s easy to see why Belichick was in such a good mood. Here’s some of what we learned from chatty Bill on Friday:
He’s not ready to name Cam Newton the starter (publicly)
Despite Thursday’s report that Cam Newton will be the Patriots starting quarterback Week 1, Belichick told reporters Friday morning “we’re not naming starters at any positions.” He added that he will keep any conversations between him and the team (the report claimed he named Newton the starter during a team meeting Thursday morning) within the walls of the meeting rooms.
Asked about Newton being named a captain, Belichick mentioned it’s a title voted on by the players, and not up to him. He expanded saying that he feels the team has a number of players who provide leadership, whether they’re officially captains or not.
The kicker job is still up for grabs
Belichick described the position battle between rookie Justin Rohrwasser and veteran Nick Folk as “a pretty close gap.” Folk won the eye test at camp while Rohrwasser was wildly inaccurate, but the Patriots used a fifth-round pick on the Marshall product back in April and still seem to like his potential.
Mohamed Sanu ‘just didn’t work out’
The first big shoe to drop in the Patriots’ roster cuts was the team releasing Mohamed Sanu on Wednesday. “Just one of those things that just didn’t work out,” Belichick said when asked why the eight-year NFL vet didn’t make the team.
“I think he tried very hard, we tried very hard. I don’t think it was anybody’s fault or anything like that,” Belichick continued. “It just didn’t work out as well as everybody hoped when the transaction was made.”
Roster cuts coming soon
Even though the deadline for teams to be down to 53 players is Saturday at 4 p.m., expect the Patriots to be ahead of the curve. Belichick told reporters that decisions on players would be happening “hours” after his 9 a.m. Friday press availability.
The team is already down to 77 players after officially releasing Sanu and two other players Thursday. Belichick may want to stay ahead of other teams, giving himself the flexibility to add players let loose elsewhere.
Entering an unknown
Belichick spoke at length about this year’s cut down process being different due to COVID-19, and how he thinks it will impact the team’s decisions. The main point he touched on was the difference in practice squad rules.
Usually capped at 10 players and restricted by time in the league, this year the NFL will allow teams to keep 16 players on the practice squad, with a few spots available to any player, regardless of service time. Belichick noted that this will not only affect how he builds his practice squad, but also which players become available, as the extra spots may allow teams to approach cuts differently.
The Patriots coach also noted that usually he and his staff use preseason tape to judge which players may become available, and to scout potential free agents. Such tape obviously doesn’t exist this year. Finally, Belichick noted that with unlimited IR return spots available (it’s usually two) and returns allowed after just three weeks (it’s usually six), teams will likely be handling injured players differently than they would in past years.
The overarching unknown of cutdown weekend will have answers soon, with the 53-man deadline just about 40 hours away.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.