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Did Bill Belichick really refuse to meet Tom Brady in person before the quarterback left the New England Patriots in 2020?

Belichick says it’s fake news.

The Patriots head coach fielded questions about a wide range of topics on Wednesday, which was to be expected, as the team gets ready for Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to roll into Gillette Stadium for a highly anticipated Sunday Night Football showdown. Among the topics addressed was the lead in ESPN.com’s story about Seth Wickersham’s upcoming book about the Brady-Belichick Patriots dynasty, It’s Better To Be Feared.

The book reportedly details Brady’s desire to say goodbye to Belichick face-to-face, and contends that Belichick “insisted” the conversation happen over the phone. Here’s how the article explained it:

In the end, Tom Brady just wanted to say goodbye — in person — to his longtime coach. But according to a new book to be published next month, Bill Belichick said he wasn’t available and insisted the two New England Patriots legends talk on the phone. … Even though Belichick told Brady that he was ‘the best player the league had ever seen,’ Brady told a friend the fact it came over the phone was “telling” about how badly the duo’s relationship had deteriorated over the years.

Asked about that part of the story, Belichick dismissed it as hearsay from people who weren’t there.

“No, that’s not true, and I heard a few things about this book, and it sounds like it’s a lot of second, third, and fourth-hand comments,” Belichick said. “I’m not going to get into that. I’m going to focus on this game and try to prepare for the Bucs.”

Belichick didn’t necessarily need to deny the claims. He could have just kept it to the second part. So that was a pretty emphatic denial, by his standards. Surely not everyone will believe him, but as Belichick may say, the answer is what it is.

The behind-the-scenes stuff was obviously unavoidable. But the Patriots and Bucs do have a football game to get ready for this week. And the Pats need to be a lot better than they were against the Saints to have a chance of upsetting the Bucs Sunday night. For their sake, hopefully their focus is being better on the football field and not silly backstage drama from the past.

MORE: Breaking down the nuggets in Seth Wickersham’s new Patriots book

Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.