Belichick Lauded For Showing Emotion In First Public Remarks Since Hernandez Arrest
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, speaking publicly yesterday for the first time since Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder, "was as open as we've seen him in his New England tenure, even though there were questions he didn't answer because of legal considerations," according to Mike Reiss of ESPN BOSTON. Belichick before an "overflowing media crowd" spoke for about 22 minutes, the first seven "consisting of opening remarks before fielding questions." Belichick showed a "mix of the human touch in which he expressed personal hurt and disappointment, empathy for those affected by the tragedy, perspective on a life lost and also a respectful defense of the process in which he's vetted players over the past 14 years." Belichick in his opening remarks said, "It's a sad day; really a sad day on so many levels." It was an "immediate tone-setter, followed up by words such as 'shocked,' 'disappointed' and 'hurt,' as well as Belichick's endorsing the idea that the club has a responsibility to be a 'pillar in the community.'" His remarks "came across as sincere, in part because Belichick didn't budge when talking about the team's player-evaluation system" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 7/24). In Hartford, Paul Doyle notes Belichick "offered few insights as he insisted that he was limited by the ongoing criminal investigation." But after "weeks of silence, he defended his organization and how it does business." Belichick spoke with a "tinge of emotion during his opening remarks." He mentioned Hernandez by name in his "first sentence and it was the last time he did so" (HARTFORD COURANT, 7/25). Click here to watch Belichick's comments.
CLEARLY IMPACTED BY THE EVENTS: In Boston, Shalise Manza Young notes Belichick wrote his opening statement and it was clear he "has been affected by the events that have transpired with his now-former player." He "deflected most of the Hernandez questions," but did respond when asked "about the apartment Hernandez kept in Franklin and the implication from one of his alleged accomplices that other Patriots used it as well." Belichick: “We have absolutely done as much work as we can on finding out things like that and we’ll try to get all the information that we can as that would apply to any current situation, which I can’t talk about. But we absolutely are trying to do that, yes.” Belichick said that the Patriots "did not know about Hernandez possibly being connected to a double homicide in Boston last July, nor did they know about the alleged incident earlier this year in Florida in which Hernandez is accused in a civil suit of shooting an acquaintance in the face" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/25). In Providence, Paul Kenyon notes Belichick "showed contrition and sincerity." The news conference at Gillette Stadium "drew a standing-room-only crowd of reporters in the main press box, one of the largest groups of media for any non-playoff game gathering." There were an "estimated two dozen television and video cameras" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 7/25). WEEI-FM’s John Dennis said, "It was a mixture of candor and contrition, sadness and anger, and something we rarely, if ever, see from Bill Belichick that would be humility and humanity. ... I haven’t heard anybody give him anything but high marks for what he did and how he did it yesterday.” WEEI’s Gerry Callahan said, “He surprised me at every turn. He genuinely seemed like this affected him and he did not down play it, diminish it, dismiss it at any point” ("Dennis & Callahan," WEEI-FM, 7/25).
RISING TO THE OCCASION: In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes Belichick "came up big." He was "fair, measured, empathic, remorseful, dignified, ever-secretive, and best of all, human." Belichick "knew this was not the day to be intentionally obtuse." He did things that "surprised many." Belichick "said Hernandez’s name (once). He admitted failure." Among the phrases he said were, “These are fair questions to be asked," “I’m not trying to make the story disappear," "This certainly goes way beyond football issues," and “We try to learn from mistakes we’ve made along the way which there have been -- plenty." Shaughnessy writes these are "dark days in Foxborough," but Belichick yesterday "gave them what they needed" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/25). Also in Boston, Ron Borges writes Belichick "got it." He spoke "forthrightly about his disappointment and sadness." What Belichick said yesterday was "what he needed to say" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/25). THE MMQB's Greg Bedard wrote Belichick "did not shy away from the issues, and his candor lifted a burden and a tension that was palpable before the press conference." He "hit the right notes," and you could "tell this shook Belichick to his core as a person" (MMQB.SI.com, 7/24). In N.Y., Gary Myers writes Belichick "did his best to portray his feelings and did a good job." He took "responsibility for making what turned out to be a huge misjudgment of character when evaluating Hernandez" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/25). SportsNet N.Y.'s Adam Schein said Belichick handled his press conference "with the right kind of sensitivity and emotion and grace that he needed to" ("Loud Mouths," SNY, 7/24). SNY's Andy Martino said Belichick was "as sensitive to this subject as he could be given what he could say" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 7/24). In Boston, Margery Eagan writes Belichick "spoke with what seemed like genuine pain and sadness" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/25). Belichick was "emotional and contrite, accountable and selfless, forthcoming and fairly descriptive." He provided "more than anticipated" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/25). He was "very human," and "Belichick the citizen bled a little" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/25).
A DIFFERENT BELICHICK: In DC, Cindy Boren wrote Belichick "bore little resemblance to the coach who is usually curt and dismissive of his media duties" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/24). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, "For the most part he was very un-Belichickian. He was very humble, he was somber, he was affected. ... He did a lot more than a lot of people thought he would do. He was very human." Denver Post columnist Woody Paige: "This didn't seem like the Bill Belichick that normally comes into press conferences and wants to be confrontational" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/24). ESPN's Marcellus Wiley said the Patriots handled the situation "correctly," and for the fact Belichick "didn't go out there and just give the same old Belichick press conference and say nothing, I have to commend him" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 7/24). NFL Network's Albert Breer: "You could sense regret, you could sense sympathy and you sense even a little bit of embarrassment that his program is connected to this" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 7/24). In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes Belichick "showed real remorse." Jacobs: "He hurt. He bled. ... He let his guard down to show real humanity. Appropriate is the word that strikes me" (HARTFORD COURANT, 7/25).
LEFT SOMETHING ON THE TABLE: In Providence, Jim Donaldson writes while Belichick was "more forthcoming than usual in his prepared remarks, he dodged answering any meaningful questions." He has "said all he is going to say" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 7/25). In Connecticut, Kevin Duffy writes, "What you heard Wednesday is the best you're going to get" (CONNECTICUT POST, 7/25). ESPN's Bomani Jones said, "Given the fact he didn't even bother to take the pencil from behind his ear before giving his talk, he looked to me like a man that just wanted to get this over with" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/24).
TACKLING THE ISSUE HEAD ON: YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel noted in an "unusual step," six Patriots captains, including QB Tom Brady, were made available to the media today. Belichick's goal is "clearly to address the situation the best they can and then get back to football." Wetzel: "You can expect no one here to say a word about Hernandez by Friday morning" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/24). NFL Network’s Steve Wyche said, “I wonder if they talked to the Atlanta Falcons, because this is the same approach the Falcons took when the Michael Vick dog fighting case had engulfed the nation. They had Arthur Blank and Rich McKay have a huge, lengthy news conference one day. The next day they had Alge Crumpler and Joey Harrington and Lawyer Milloy come in and take all the questions and try to shield the rest of their teammates" ("NFL AM," NFL Network, 7/25).
EVALUATING THE EVALUATIONS: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes under the header, "Pats' Evaluations Suspect." And Belichick yesterday "didn't rule out overhaul" of the player evaluation process (USA TODAY, 7/25). FOXSPORTS.com's Mike Garafolo cited a source as saying that the Patriots have "become sensitive to the fallout from the Hernandez situation and will be more careful in regard to signing or drafting players who have had legal and behavioral issues." The source said that it has "been communicated to the scouting and personnel staff the standards for adding players with character and legal concerns have been raised." The source said, "Some of the red flags that used to get through won't be getting through" (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/24).