PHOENIX — Every year at the annual NFL meetings, the coaches from the AFC and NFC are split by their respective conferences for hour-long breakfasts with media members.
The AFC was up on Tuesday morning (NFC is Wednesday), which meant Bill Belichick was among the attendees.
A lot of what Belichick said was standard fare — for any of the players who have left the team, he said rosters change every year, for players the Patriots have signed he said he’s looking forward to working with them, and in all things, he’s just trying to do what’s best for his football team.
But when he was asked about Rob Gronkowski, who has undergone three surgeries on his right forearm over the last four months due to breaking his arm twice and then to clean up an infection, Belichick was measured in his first two responses, and gave an indication with the third that he’s probably not too happy with his Pro Bowl tight end.
Question No. 1: “Do you feel Rob is on a good medical track to be ready for training camp?”
Belichick: “Well, that’s a long way away. A lot of players have a lot of things to do between now and then. Coaches, for that matter, in terms of just getting ready for the season. I’m sure, hopefully, everyone will be working hard at it. we’ll see how it comes out.”
Question No. 2: “Have you been happy with the way he’s been attentive to how he’s dealt with his rehab?”
Belichick: “With his rehab? I mean, again, I think every player has a process they go through to get ready for the offseason program and training camp. Every player, or most every player, has to deal with some aspect of it, including the normal things like conditioning, overall training relative to their physical abilities and their position.”
“The program hasn’t started yet. When the program starts on April 15, we’ll have a lot better evaluation of where everybody is.”
“There’s some limited information now, but I wouldn’t put too much on that at this point. I’d say in most cases, it’s pretty incomplete.”
Several minutes later, Belichick was asked if he had caught Gronk’s wrestling moves, the grainy video of him dancing shirtless on stage at a Las Vegas nightclub during Super Bowl week, still sporting a black cast and picking up a companion and body-slamming him to the stage.
Reporter: “Guess not?”
Belichick: “Let’s stick to football questions.”
During his 50-minute question and answer session, Belichick was of course asked about Wes Welker, and several times he deferred to Robert Kraft’s statements from Monday.
The first question was whether it was a tough negotiation with the receiver and his agents – Kraft essentially put the blame for a deal not getting done on Welker’s team.
“I think Wes was everything we hoped he’d be when we traded for him,” Belichick said. “He was tough, competitive, and very productive. I think what Robert said yesterday covered it pretty thoroughly. I don’t have anything to add to that.”
As other reporters arrived at Belichick’s designated table in the ballroom, the Welker situation came up again, and he reiterated that he agreed with what Kraft had said.
“I thought he did a good job explaining the situation. I don’t have anything to add to it…It’s been covered, very thoroughly,” he said.