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Bill Belichick's pride with '01 team's return provides glimpse into his football heart

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick struck a sentimental chord following Sunday’s 26-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams. In the process, he provided a glimpse of what he holds most closely to his football-loving heart.

Calling it an “unusual weekend but definitely a good one,” Belichick became nostalgic when talking about having 38 members of the Patriots’ Super Bowl XXXVI championship team on hand for a weekend reunion that was generously put together by the Kraft family. He said “seeing the guys from the ’01 team is really special.”

On Saturday night, members of the team relayed that Belichick showed up at their reunion and shared stories about what the team meant to him, among other things. They said Belichick told them how he often shares with his teams that the ’01 squad was the standard for what a team is all about.

After Sunday's win, when Belichick was asked by reporters what that experience meant to him, he almost couldn’t stop talking.

“That was a great night for a couple of hours, just to be able to see those guys again. A lot of them looked good. A lot of them looked like they could still play a couple downs anyway. It was a lot of fun,” Belichick said. “It was just a great opportunity to enjoy each other and reflect back on a great year.

“I would say not only what they did for the Patriots and the program and this organization, but it was kind of a springboard for Boston sports over that decade. Not that we had anything to do with the Red Sox or the Celtics or the Bruins or anything else, but it was just the first one of many with those three great organizations. You kind of feel proud that we were the first one and that they all followed.”

Belichick shared why he felt the ’01 team was so unique, and within his words, one could sense the pride he takes in the football program he’s built in New England over the last 17 years, and how it has brought many people together.

“There’s certainly a good message there. I talked to the team a little bit about what that team did and how special they were. When I think back to that team, what they did was hard. We had a lot of foundation to build, a lot of structure to implement. But they didn’t blink. They responded to it. They met every challenge,” he said.

Enjoying his trip down memory lane, Belichick also remembered what the team perceived as a slight that year.

“I still think it’s pretty interesting how the NFL schedule gave us a bye the last week of the season, like, ‘You guys will be out of it so you can go ahead and start your vacation early. Go ahead on home.’ I think that certainly surprised them, surprised the schedule makers,” he cracked. “When the schedule came out and we saw that our bye was the last week of the season -- I’m sure we didn’t follow along to the script that they had written for us, but that’s all right.”

In many ways, that team sparked what the Patriots are today, with Belichick the architect of it all. A relentless grinder who is usually “on to [insert the next opponent here],” he took a public step back Sunday to appreciate his team from 15 years ago.

Thus, it was a rare postgame look at Belichick, 64, stopping for a brief smell of the roses.

“That team, they found a way. They played the best. I don’t know if they were the best talent-wise, but they played the best and that’s why they’re champions,” he said. “They’ll always be right at the top for me in terms of individuals that I admire because of what they did.”