FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Bill Belichick had the New England Patriots visit a statue of Jim Brown outside FirstEnergy Stadium after Sunday’s 33-13 victory, with some players posting pictures of the experience on social media.
Why did Belichick delay the team’s departure to New England for the visit?
He explained his thinking during his day-after-game conference call, saying, “I think, honestly, any person – football player or otherwise – can learn a lot from Jim Brown and what he represents and what he stands for. But particularly, as it relates to our football team, Jim Brown, in my opinion, is the greatest player that ever played.”
Belichick, of course, developed a strong connection with Brown during his time as Cleveland’s head coach from 1991-1995.
“I have so much more respect and appreciation for him, knowing him well as a person and a friend [than] just an observer from a distance. He’s meant so much to this game. He’s paved the way for all of us, players and coaches, as part of many people who have made professional football the great game that it is.
“I just felt like it was an opportunity for us, as a team after the game, to recognize and pay tribute to Jim and all that he stands for – both in and out of football. But in particular, what he has meant to the game of football and how much he’s done for the game and what it means for all of us.”
The statue was erected earlier this year by the Browns, with Belichick noting that it was “kind of remarkable” it hadn’t happened sooner.
“I’m not sure how many of our players really understand or appreciate what he meant to the game, and what he has meant to the game through his continued involvement – not only with football, but with young football players, be they Browns players or just other youth that he interacts with, primarily on the West Coast, but as we know, he’s been involved with projects through the Amer-I-Can program throughout the country, which I’ve been very fortunate to witness and be a small part of,” Belichick said.
“So that’s why we did it, and I’m glad they appreciated it. Hopefully that’s something, as part of their football career, that will be one small memory. It’s just a recognition of a great player and a great person, and somebody who has really made the game better for all of us.”
Before concluding his remarks, Belichick added one more thought: “Honestly, I wish Paul Brown’s statue would have been right there with it, because we could have knocked out two birds with one stone. ... It hits a little special chord for me when you think of Paul Brown, when you think of Jim Brown and the Cleveland Browns – who are named for Paul Brown – and being in that stadium. Not because I was the coach there, but because of what Paul Brown and Jim Brown did for professional football in that city. It has a special place in my heart.”