FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Blocking is naturally a big part of the game of football. For New England Patriots players, perhaps more than those on other teams, it’s two-fold.
Block ‘em on the field. Block out the distractions off the field.
Let’s focus on the second part, because in recent days, remarks from Patriots coach Bill Belichick and players have served as a reminder that, yes, they are human and all those distractions might now be a rallying point for them to come together in the familiar “us against the world” mentality that has fueled them in the past.
It started after last Saturday’s 27-20 win over the Kansas City Chiefs when receiver Julian Edelman held court with reporters for nearly 20 minutes. He was asked what it meant to be back in the AFC Championship Game after all the adversity the team faced this year.
“It just tells you how mentally tough we are,” Edelman responded. “I’m waiting for the next story after this game.”
When Edelman was asked what he meant, he smiled.
“I don’t really want to get into that,” he responded, perhaps reminding himself of the words that players see every time they enter Gillette Stadium, which is “ignore the noise.”
Then on Sunday, special-teams captain Matthew Slater was asked if there’s ever an urge to remind doubters they’re often proven wrong. There isn’t, he said, but he acknowledged that the Patriots have been “fortunate to have the success that we’ve had, especially every year it seems there’s something different we have to overcome.”
There are those distractions again.
Most recently it was defensive end Chandler Jones’ trip to the emergency room for a reported bad reaction to synthetic marijuana, which brought intense media coverage leading into the win over the Chiefs.
“Unfortunately, it’s been like that all year. It started like that the first game of the year,” Belichick said Monday during his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI, in reference to quarterback Tom Brady’s overturned suspension and Deflategate. “Then after the first game, there was another thing for the second game [with the Steelers mentioning headset malfunctions at Gillette Stadium].
“So, we’ve talked about that. For some guys, where this is their first year with the team -- either a rookie or players that were with other teams in the NFL in previous years -- they don’t know what happened last year, or two years ago, or three years ago. Maybe we reference that, maybe we don’t.
“In this case, we had plenty of things to work with from this year that we talked about and said, ‘Look, we’ve dealt with this stuff before and we’re going to handle it the same way.’ Whatever the subject is doesn’t matter. The way we deal with it is the same -- get it out of the way, get rid of it, and control what we can control.”
Belichick was asked by co-host Jerry Thornton if last week felt like a different week of preparation for him with the Jones situation, among other things, swirling.
“I don’t think it did for me. There’s always something. We’ve dealt with plenty of those kind of things in the past. Whatever it is, we try to ignore and focus on our job and get ready for Kansas City,” Belichick answered.
“There is always outside things from the media, or things that surface for one reason or another, whatever they are. So we just either ignore them and if we have to deal with them, deal with them and get them out of the way as quickly as possible and move on.”
Now they’re moving on to Denver, the distractions behind them for now, just the way Belichick likes it.