Belichick welcomes coaching pals, explains Ballard acquisition

Patriots coach Bill Belichick took the podium today with two guests watching: former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and current Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Belichick and LaRussa have long been friends – when LaRussa was with the Cardinals, Belichick frequently visited the squad in spring training on his annual Florida scouting trip – and the Pats’ coach said today he became acquainted with Thibodeau when he was a top assistant with the Celtics.

“It’s great to have them here; I have all the respect in the world for Tom and Tony. They’re both great coaches in their respective sports. Tony … wins more games in a month than I’ve won in my career,” Belichick quipped.

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“Tom’s done a great job; I respect what he did here at Boston, and obviously in Chicago.”

Belichick said he had questions for both men on how to prepare a team for the season.

As for the Pats claiming tight end Jake Ballard on waivers from the Giants yesterday, Belichick seemed to take umbrage with the notion he’d broken one of the NFL’s “unwritten rules” by claiming an injured player his team was hoping would slip through waivers.

“First of all, there aren’t any unwrittens,” Belichick said. “…You can’t negotiate a contract with a player while he’s under contract – you can’t negotiate a contract, release him and then renegotiate another contract that was already done in advance so I’m sure the Giants weren’t doing that.

“If a player’s on waivers, he’s on waivers. Ours or anybody else’s [players]. I don’t know what unwrittens you’re talking about … Anytime you put a player on waivers, you know there are 31 teams out there that can take him if they want him.”

Belichick indicated that Ballard hasn’t yet reported to the Patriots.

The Pats are practicing outside Wednesday despite the rain.

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