Bill Belichick profoundly described surviving roster cuts as a ‘castle in the sand’

"Look, that’s the NFL. That’s the way it is here and really that’s the way it is on every team I’ve been on."

Bill Belichick during the 2017 preseason.
Bill Belichick during the 2017 preseason. –AP Photo/Winslow Townson

Bill Belichick annually arrives back in training camp with an ability to forget the events of the previous year. Even after winning multiple Super Bowls, Belichick has somehow been able to maintain the same focus and work ethic.

It’s a trait that he constantly tries to instill in his team. This is especially true among younger players, some of whom are making the team for the first time. Having just cut the roster down in advance of the regular season, Belichick was asked what it’s like on the flip side, when he gets to tell a player they’ve made it.

The Patriots’ coach responded by alluding to the interminable struggle of staying motivated even after players think they’ve survived the cuts:

Well, the reality of it is this is the National Football League and there are plenty of guys that are going to be on rosters today, tomorrow and Week 1 that won’t be on them in Week 3 or Week 4. That’s the National Football League. You keep your job by earning your job on a day-to-day basis.

I think that’s one of the things sometimes that players, younger players especially who don’t have a lot of experience in the league, can make a poor judgment on. They work hard in training camp. They make the roster, make the practice squad, or earn playing time or whatever it is, and then feel like they don’t have to do as much or that they’ve kind of arrived at a certain point, and a few weeks later other players pass them by and their situation changes. That’s not uncommon at all.

And Belichick elaborated on the harsh reality of the NFL:

Mental toughness, consistency, resiliency, dependability, being able to do it day after day after day at high level –  the competition level is moving up now, not down. The players that aren’t NFL players are off rosters and the guys who are on them are theoretically better than the ones who are off them. The competitive level is higher weekly in practice. It’s higher in games. Some players will rise with that, that competitiveness. Competition will push them up. Some of them, it doesn’t work that way. If that’s the case, then they’re going to be replaced.

Yeah, as much as you want to say “Nice job. You made the team,” they’re not a permanent fixture on the team. They’re here until as long as they’re doing their job and they’re dependable, and reliable, and consistent and improving. Once that curve starts to head the other way, I would say it probably isn’t going to last too long. If they can’t figure that out then they’re probably going to suffer the consequences. Look, that’s the NFL. That’s the way it is here and really that’s the way it is on every team I’ve been on. I imagine it that way on every team in the league.

He closed the quote by trying to reconcile his explanation with the reporter’s question:

I know what you’re saying – it’s a good moment, but it’s a castle in the sand. It could be gone very, very quickly. I hope none of our players, young players, guys who this is the first time they’ve been on this team, take that attitude. I think that would be a big mistake on their part. Hopefully, they won’t do that.