FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Bill Belichick sometimes uses the saying “put it in the drawer” with his players and coaches, which is a reference to where distractions should go during the football season so there can be a laser-like focus on the task at hand. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, and starting left tackle Trent Brown was particularly challenged in that area last week.
Hurricane Michael ripped through Brown’s hometown of Albany, Georgia, and Brown’s first thought was simply, “I wanted to go home.”
Unlike others who escaped Albany before the hurricane hit, Brown’s parents -- Reginald and Tiffany -- did not. Reginald’s work as a police officer required him to be on duty, which meant Tiffany stayed at home by herself. While there were anxious moments, everything turned out OK.
“There was devastation to the city, but the good Lord had us covered and missed our house,” Brown said.
The Browns lost power at their home for days, but kept in touch with their son in New England, which eased some of his stress.
“I was pretty concerned; that was scary. It looked like they dropped a bomb on the city,” the 25-year-old Brown said.
It was a reminder of the often-overlooked human side of things for players behind the face mask.
2. A Patriots-Bears matchup on Sunday provides a springboard to revisit cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s free-agent decision in the 2017 offseason. “It was between here and Chicago,” he confirmed. The Bears were hotly in pursuit of Gilmore, but the Patriots swooped in at the last minute with a five-year, $65 million deal few saw coming. Gilmore, who is playing at a Pro Bowl level in his second season in New England, said he's thrilled with the choice.
Edelman on everything
From religion, to his bromance with Tom Brady, to his imitation of Coach Bill Belichick, Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman does not hold back in an interview with Jeremy Schaap. Catch the full feature on Tuesday, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
3. Patriots receiver Julian Edelman is showing his spiritual side by wearing a Star of David pendant on a chain around his neck. It popped out of his jersey at one point in the Oct. 4 home game against the Colts, and he wears it daily under his practice jersey. Edelman said he received it a few years ago from a special friend, which sparks memories of his humorous E:60 interview with Jeremy Schaap.
4. Did you know (via ESPN’s Stats & Information research): Since Robert Kraft purchased the Patriots in 1994, the club has had only six starting quarterbacks, which is tied with the Packers for fewest in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Bears have had 28 different starting quarterbacks over that span, second-most behind only the Browns.
5. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks saw his career revived when he was traded to the Patriots in 2015, and now he’s a key part of the Bears’ impressive defense, having since cashed in with a four-year, $48 million contract. It’s easy to forget now, but Hicks had fallen out of favor with the Saints and was shipped to New England in a modest straight-up swap for tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. Hicks is one of many players who owe thanks to the Patriots for giving their careers a financial boost over the years. The example that still stands out to me as the headliner in this area was outside linebacker Mark Anderson, who was signed to a one-year, $1.75 million deal in 2011, and parlayed that into a 10-sack season that led the Bills to give him a four-year, $21 million pact in 2012. Anderson made it through only one year of that deal with Buffalo.
6. The Patriots' defense has been up and down in the team’s 4-2 start, but here’s one positive for the unit: It has totaled eight interceptions, by eight different players. That’s a bit unusual, as the only other team with that many players recording an interception this season is ... you guessed it ... the Bears.
7. The presence of Patriots practice-squad quarterback Danny Etling on the sideline at games this season has been hard to miss, with the club taking a similar approach with him as it did with Jacoby Brissett in 2016 when Brissett was on injured reserve. It is unusual for practice-squad players or those on IR to be on the sideline, but the hope is that it helps his growth as a player by allowing him to be part of the game-management process. As it turns out, Etling isn’t the only player to be doing this in 2018: It caught my eye that rookie linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley -- who has potential to be a quarterback of the defense in the future -- has also been on the sideline and also has been a more visible presence in the locker room during media-access periods.
8. Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer spoke fondly of his 2016 season with the Bears, relaying that playing at Soldier Field was a special experience that connected him to football history. The Patriots don’t get to Soldier Field often -- this is just the eighth trip in franchise history -- but part of what makes the venue unique is that it has undergone multiple improvements as modern updates have been added while the original columns remain outside the stadium. Bill Belichick gave players a history lesson on the stadium this past Thursday, which included some notable old photographs.
A quick history primer on Soldier Field:
Opened in 1924.
It was originally called Municipal Grant Park Stadium, but was renamed Soldier Field the next year.
Hosted Army-Navy game in 1926 in front of 110,000.
In 1944, more than 150,000 attended a wartime visit at the stadium by President Franklin Roosevelt.
The first major renovation was in 1978, adding lights and chair-back seats, among other things.
In 2003, a second major renovation was completed that made it a multi-use facility. Patriots fans remember that well, as the 2002 Patriots-Bears game was played in Champaign, Illinois -- a thrilling 33-30 victory in which New England came back from a 27-6 deficit -- with the Bears forced out of Soldier Field so work could be completed.
9. Here’s a stat that is likely to come up during Sunday’s television broadcast: Tom Brady is 4-0 in his career against the Bears, one of five teams against whom he has an undefeated mark. The others are the Falcons (5-0), Cowboys (4-0), Vikings (4-0) and Buccaneers (4-0). Brady has been most successful against the Bills, with a 28-3 record, and they are next on the schedule.
10. One leftover from the Patriots locker room: Every player on the team received a game ball from the Week 4 win over the Dolphins. That was the team’s most complete victory of the season, 38-7, and also came after its best week of practice. Giving game balls to every player was one way to highlight a full-team effort and the daily grind-it-out approach Belichick wants his players to have.