FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A couple of months ago, Bill Belichick couldn't bring himself to say the J word -- Jets. Recounting his long coaching history with former assistant Romeo Crennel, Belichick mentioned every team by name except when he got to the New York Jets. He referred to them as "another team."
That team is the team this week, which explains why Belichick has shifted into filibuster mode. You can't shut him up about the Jets, whom the New England Patriots face on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
When he faced the Boston media on Wednesday, Belichick's opening statement on the Jets was 523 words, according to the transcript released by the Patriots. Some historical perspective: It was almost twice as long as the Gettysburg Address, which Abraham Lincoln knocked out in 272 words.
The men in this rivalry aren't created equal -- the Patriots have won 10 of the past 12 meetings -- but you couldn't tell from listening to Belichick, who offered effusive praise of every phase of the Jets' organization.
He covered offense, defense, special teams and coaching, distributing more bouquets than 1-800-Flowers. Surprisingly, he forgot to mention the kitchen staff, which does a great job of preparing food for the team and, yes, the always-hungry crowd in the press room.
During his opening soliloquy, Belichick mentioned 18 players by name, including rookie wide receiver Chad Hansen (who barely plays), kick returner Jalin Marshall (who has yet to suit up this season) and special teamer Josh Martin (one of his personal favorites).
Describing the Jets, Belichick used the word "good" eight times and "well" six times -- as in, "[Josh] McCown is playing extremely well."
"This is three weeks in a row they've really gone out and played well in all three phases of the game," the Hoodie said. "I think this is a team that's, obviously, got a lot of new players from the last time we played them. They're young, they're hungry, they play a game that forces you to beat them. They don't make a lot of mistakes. I've really been impressed with the way they've played the last three weeks."
This tact, of course, isn't a new phenomenon. It's as old as football, except it's noteworthy with Belichick because there are times when he clams up, grunting one- and two-word responses to legitimate questions. Naturally, there's a method to his madness. Over the years, the Jets have suspected ulterior motives.
Several years ago, Nick Mangold was told by a reporter that Belichick had raved about him in a news conference. Without hesitation, Mangold replied, "He's probably trying to butter me up."
Belichick can spread it on thick, that's for sure. A few days before their Christmas Eve game last season, he delivered a 490-word opening statement on the 4-10 Jets, calling them a "very explosive" team.
They exploded, all right.
The Patriots won, 41-3.