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Dan Shaughnessy

Belichick won’t bite on swipe

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / October 28, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — As if Brad Childress didn’t have enough problems . . .

The Vikings coach threw diva Brett Favre under the bus after Sunday night’s loss to the Packers. Coach knows his drama queen quarterback cares more about his consecutive-game streak than anything involving the sorry Vikings. Childress also has to worry about getting Randy Moss more touches (this is Randy’s contract year, in case you forgot). Meanwhile, the “Super Bowl-bound’’ Vikings are 2-4 as they come to Foxborough to play the invigorated Patriots. Poor Brad is on the brink of watching his team drop out of the playoff hunt.

So what does he do?

He tugs on Super Coach’s cape, reminding the world that the Patriots were cheaters back in the days when they thrashed the Vikings (31-7) on “Monday Night Football’’ four years ago.

Brilliant, Brad. Why not give Bill Belichick a little more incentive before a game that could effectively end your season on Halloween?

Strange. So strange. Must be the season of the witch.

This is what Childress said Monday:

“I’m mindful of the last time we faced them here, on ‘Monday Night Football.’ It was like a surgical procedure. These were some of the all-time great signal stealers. In fact, that’s what was going on. They were holding, holding, holding. We were signaling from the sideline. They were good at it. It’s like stealing signals from the catcher.’’

Wow. It’s one thing to insult Tom Brady’s hair or make fun of Bob Kraft’s blue shirts with the white collars . . . but bringing “stealing signals’’ into any conversation regarding the pre-2007 Patriots is radioactive. It’s like asking Tiger Woods if he has Rachel Uchitel’s phone number. Or bumping into Tricia Nixon and giving her directions to the Watergate Hotel.

Belichick and Childress have some bad history. Check out the Garrett Mills waiver wars and Childress tweaking New England when he drafted Percy Harvin.

But that was kid stuff compared with this. Childress just moved into the Mangini pantheon.

Belichick, of course, is not going to cop to anything. Belichick would have lunch with Charlie Casserly or stand in line at the Registry of Motor Vehicles before he would admit that he’s bothered and inspired by another coach’s remarks.

Still, I had to give it a shot. I had to demonstrate some false hustle and do the fool’s errand. Knowing it was like building a sand castle before high tide, I drove to Foxborough.

Near the end of Belichick’s always-wacky media session, I asked, “What’s your reaction when you hear an opposing coach talking about games in 2006 and stealing signals?’’

“I’m not really too worried about 2006,’’ deadpanned Bill. “I’m worried about this Sunday against Minnesota. I’m not worried about next Sunday, last Sunday, ’06, ’02, ’89. Really, it’s just Sunday.’’

OK, that’s not exactly the same as saying, “I hate the guy with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns,’’ but I sensed a little something between the lines of his non-answer. So I went back with, “What would motivate a coach to do that?’’

“I don’t know,’’ he said patiently. “Really, I’m just trying to coach this team and get ready for the Vikings. You’ll have to talk to other coaches. I don’t know.’’

(Tom Landry, George Halas, and Amos Alonzo Stagg did not return my calls.)

Giving it one more try, I offered, “As a policy for yourself, do you ever go back and talk about past games?’’

“We’ve talked about some other games before,’’ he said (he was grinning a little now). “But really, my focus is the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon. That’s what I’m here for.’’

Then he smiled, exited stage right, and said, “Is that what you were looking for?’’

Enough with the foolish questions about the desperate coach. It was time for the serious man to go to work.

Belichick’s players, naturally, delivered the same message.

“I was answering questions about that three years ago,’’ said Brady. “I don’t know. You always try to get an advantage. I know other teams have said they watch TV copies of our games and they have all the stuff we do.

“Ultimately, it’s going to come down to how well you block and how well you tackle and how well you throw the ball and catch the ball and how well you defend the other team.’’

Childress backpedaled yesterday.

“I said what I said,’’ he stated. “That’s in the past. We all try to get any tips that we can get or glean standing on the sidelines. I’m sure it’s done throughout the league. We do it as well. I’ll just let those stand. I have a great deal of respect for Coach Belichick and the way he’s formulated that program in the last 10 years and I’ve told him so.’’

Too late, Brad. Don’t pretend you didn’t know how “stealing signals’’ would be received in New England. This wasn’t like making fun of Brady Gaga’s hair or tweaking Bob Kraft for those shirts. This was hitting New England where it hurts — bringing up old wounds and suggesting that the Patriots’ success earlier in this decade was not on the level.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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