FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After answering several questions on the NFL's new kickoff rule -- the ball is now spotted on the 35 instead of the 30 -- Patriots coach Bill Belichick smiled when a reporter revisited the topic later in Tuesday's news conference.
"We're really digging there, aren't we? It's the end of training camp," Belichick said with a chuckle. "When was the last time we've had a press conference that has gone into kickoffs in such depth? I could talk about kickoff returns all day. It was my life [from 1976-1982]."
Belichick had addressed the topic on Saturday but got more into depth Tuesday. With Belichick expecting kickoff returns to be reduced in 2011, it is a consideration he'll keep in mind when building the team's roster.
"I think you have to think about it. If instead of covering 60 kickoffs in a year, you think you're only going to be covering 30, is that coverage player as important? On the flip side, in the return game, you're going to be returning 30 instead of 60 ...," he said. "If you think you're going to be returning more punts than kickoffs -- usually it's the other way around -- then maybe you put more of a priority on your punt returner than your kickoff returner, just as an example.
"I think it affects it to some degree. I don't think it's the overriding thing. You know you're going to have to cover them. You know you're going to have to return them. It's not like a hands team where it comes up twice a season. We know it's going to come up, but with the same frequency? Probably not as much."
Belichick then added his thought that the rule probably wouldn't affect the Patriots later in the season, in December games at Gillette Stadium.
Belichick also noted that the Patriots' return men -- Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price and Wes Welker -- are versatile in that they work at both kickoffs and punts.