Belichick calls separation 'not a new development'

In a statement to ESPN.com, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick confirmed Wednesday night that he and his wife, Debby, are separated.

"This is not a new development," Belichick said. "I ask that my personal privacy be respected."

Rumors of the separation first appeared earlier this week on internet message boards, including one devoted to Patriots fans, and the Boston-area media in recent days began to make inquiries about the status of the Belichicks' marriage.

The inference of some posts on one message board have been that the separation will be a distraction for Belichick and undermine New England's chances in 2005 of becoming the first team in NFL history to capture three straight Super Bowl championships.

But the separation occurred before the 2004 season, one in which Belichick appeared undeterred by personal issues, and in which the Patriots won a third Super Bowl title in four years.

Belichick, 53, won an ESPY on Wednesday night as the coach/manager of the year.

The Belichicks have long shared philanthropic interests and their charitable endeavors together have been considerable, including the Bill and Debby Belichick Scholarship, founded in 2001 and awarded annually to an Annapolis High School senior for academic and athletic achievement.

The couple has three children.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.