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On To 2018: Butler Questions Remain, But Belichick Sticks To Refrain

During his notable Hall of Fame career, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has become a trend-setter. But in this case, we’re not referring to his leadership ability.

We’re talking about his filibustering.

Watch Belichick the next time he steps to the podium at a press conference. Look at that punim of his, contorted, knotted, twisted into a caricature of a man in intense pain.

Heck, you would think he was next in line for a colonoscopy.

Bill Belichick

Elsa / Getty

He is the very definition of obstructionist when it comes to disseminating information, even the facts and figures he’s in the mood to share. Each word flows with the vigor of maple syrup on a frigid Vermont morning.

He often smirks at his interrogators, even those he has worked with for a long time on both regional and national stages.

Which brings up to what happened on Wednesday during the press conference that essentially kicked off the start of summer camp for his Patriots, the defending AFC champions.

You may remember what Belichick did before the Pats played the Eagles in last season’s Super Bowl. He benched cornerback Malcolm Butler, one of the stalwarts of his defense, who started all but one game in 2017.

And then after the Patriots lost, he offered no explanation as to why, deflecting questions, refusing elaboration, acting like the pain in the butt he can sometimes be.

If Belichick thought the issue was history, he quickly discovered it was not when Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, who has asked Patriots coaches questions since 1981 when Ron Erhardt was the coach of a 2-14 team that Matt Cavanaugh and Steve Grogan quarterbacked, again asked Belichick the Butler question.

Here is the transcript of the interview:

Shaughnessy: “Bill, I know you’re all about this year and we all understand that. You’re about this year.’’

Belichick: “That’s right.’’

Shaughnessy: “And I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask about last year.’’

Belichick: “Last year is last year. I’m not focused on last year.’’

Shaughnessy: “What about the fact that everywhere we go, folks want to ask about Malcolm Butler? Sports coaches, players, universally. You’re a sports fan.’’

Belichick: “We talked about that. That’s multiple months ago.’’

Shaughnessy: “Is there going to be any more explanation about why he didn’t play?’’

Belichick: “Focused on training camp.’’

Shaughnessy: “Would you do it any differently?’’

Belichick: “Training camp? Well, we’re getting started. We’ll work on that right now. We’ll do the best we can.’’

Shaughnessy: “Does it matter to you, do you care that the fans want to know more about this?’’

Belichick: “I’m focused on doing the best I can for the 2018 New England Patriots. That’s my job. That’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’ve always done in the past. Every day I’ve coached here, I’ve done the best that I could for this football team. I’ll continue to do that. Right now my focus is on the 2018 season. Not 2017, not 2014, 2007, not 2004, not 2001, not 2000. I’m not focused on any of those seasons. They’re done.’’

Shaughnessy: “For this season’s team, is it important for you to address the Malcolm Butler thing with your team?’’

Belichick: “It’s important for me to have a good season in 2018. I’m going to do everything I can to do that. Do the best that I can for our football team. That’s my job and that’s my responsibility. That’s what I’m going to try to do. Hopefully you can respect that, but maybe not.’’

And there you have it, the Belichickian point of view. Deflect and ignore.

But this time, there is ample evidence that his players are fatigued of his tiresome schtick.

It a tweet shortly after the Super Bowl, former Pats defensive back Brandon Browner landed a right cross to the midsection of his former coach.

“A locker room divided pregame, the most yards ever given up in a Super Bowl game and your best defender over the last three seasons doesn’t get a snap. You were hurt/burnt where he was needed tonight … #foolish pride.”

But it’s what happened next that seemed most compelling. The tweet was liked by three players, including Dont’a Hightower, considered the boss man of New England’s defense.

There was immediate speculation that Butler had done something wrong, missed a curfew, maybe angered Belichick in some way.

But Devon McCourty, another of Belichick’s guys, blew that theory out of the water.

“As far as I know, all of that is the furthest thing from the truth,” McCourty told NJ Advanced Media, “We all knew he wasn’t starting all week. That wasn’t a secret to the guys on the team.

“I get why people are fishing. The guy played 98 percent of the plays. I just hate that for him character-wise going into free agency. It’s just not true. As far as I know – and I was there all week – not one time did anything come up.”

The bottom line is that it appears Belichick may have finally lost his locker room. Danny Amendola left for the Dolphins, saying he was finally “happy and free.” Nate Solder left for the Giants. Dion Lewis and Butler bolted to the Titans.

Most importantly, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski did not show for voluntary workouts under the guise of self-preservation, interesting because there have been rumors that the quarterback and his coach are no longer on the same track.

So we will see what happens this year. But don’t count on Belichick to be forthcoming about any of it. Not a chance.