In Bill Belichick’s conference call with reporters on Tuesday, the veteran coach of the Patriots attempted to knock down any enthusiasm over Rob Gronkowski’s announcement that he was playing in the season opener against the Miami Dolphins.
“Well, I’m glad that Rob’s optimistic about his situation,” Belichick said. “We’ll go through the week of practice and take a look at everything, everybody and see where everybody is at and do what we feel like is best for the team.
“With all due respect to Rob, I’m glad he feels the way he does but in the end, we’ll have to make the decision that we feel is best for the team and we’ll do that as we go through the week.”
You have to understand, there’s quite a bit of gamesmanship that’s going on here. While the Patriots are universally recognized as one of the most secret franchises in professional football, Gronkowski upended that notion on Monday when he stood in front of his locker — with cameras at the ready — and broke the news of his availability for Sunday’s game in Miami. Apparently, Gronkowski had not yet read his script. He was supposed to say something like, “I’m just getting better every day” and “I’m going to do whatever the coaches ask me.” He obviously veered far away from that.
The idea behind hiding the availability of a player, at least in the Patriots view for Gronk or for anybody else for that matter on the mend, is that the opposing team will allegedly have a harder time preparing for the game that week. The problem with that view, which the Patriots dispel in their own talking points, is that most teams prepare for everything and for everybody. Gronk is a known x-factor and his Week 1 availability has been reported on for months. There won’t be any fooling the Dolphins this week when he plays. And the team certainly has enough tape from last season when he did not play.
So what was the point of Belichick’s comments today? Consistency. He consistently obfuscates when it comes to announcing the availability of his players and how that may affect his strategy. It didn’t matter that the news had been broken by his employee. He wasn’t going to change 14 years of muddying the message, hoping in part to leave us questioning the health of every player just as much as opposing coaches question who might be playing on Sundays.