FOXBOROUGH — A short week against a challenging opponent certainly has the attention of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who was peppered with a wide range of questions during his press conference Wednesday.
Belichick was asked about the 49ers, who meet the Patriots at Gillette Stadium Sunday night. The Patriots (10-3) are currently the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoff race; San Francisco (9-3-1) is No. 2 in the NFC race, giving the Patriots a second straight game against a quality, playoff-bound opponent.
“These guys do a lot of things well, very physical football team, well coached, very good fundamentally,” Belichick said. “We know we’ve got a big challenge in front of us this week, the entire week, not just Sunday, but the whole week of preparation, getting ready to play these guys will be tough.”
Belichick also commented on a number of other topics.
On the status of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has been out with a broken forearm: “Day-to-day. Hopefully today’s better than yesterday, and hopefully tomorrow is better than today.”
On former Patriots receiver Randy Moss, now with the 49ers: “Randy’s Randy; he can still run through the defense.”
On Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who visited the coaches before Monday’s game, then watched from Belichick’s box: “It’s great to have Doc here, I have a lot of respect for Doc and the program that the Celtics run, I think he does a tremendous job coaching his team. I really admire the way his teams play, the way his players play. He gives great leadership to a lot of those guys. You can learn a lot from watching them.”
On the relationship he has with Rivers: “We talk, we exchange ideas, I’m certainly pulling for them, they’re pulling for us, so there’s a rooting interest. But beyond that, on a professional level, there’s certainly a lot that I’ve learned from watching Doc and the Celtics, the way they do a lot of things organizationally, his coaching style, some of the things he’s talked to me about, the way he’s handled players and situations, things like that. He’s talked to our team, he’s said a lot of things that really made sense, really hit home. It’s a good relationship, we’ve learned from each other.”
Belichick also confirmed the signing of receiver Deion Branch, added to the roster after Donte’ Stallworth suffered an ankle injury in Monday’s game.