Patriots coach Bill Belichick opened his news conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday with a cheery, “Happy training camp.’’
From there, Belichick kept a tight focus on the upcoming season, refusing to delve back into his controversial decision to bench Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII or discuss his current relationship with former backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Belichick said the team’s preparations over the course of the spring went better than anticipated, but noted the players — and his coaching staff — have a long way to go before the season kicks off against the Houston Texans.
Here’s what Belichick had to say as the Patriots reported to training camp:
“Happy training camp. It’s always good to get started here. Going back to the end of the spring, I felt like the players, overall, had a very good spring. Got a lot done. Some guys really made big, strong jumps. Maybe a little more than normal or what we anticipated. We practiced well — obviously not perfect, we have a long way to go I’m not saying that. But I thought the players did a really good job of doing what we asked them to do.’’
On his own improvements: “It’s a new season for all of us. We all have a lot to do. I certainly have a lot of skills that I need to refine and improve and work on to get them to the level that they need to be at for the football season. That’s what training camp and preseason games and so forth are for, so we’ll work to do those things individually and collectively as a team and as a staff.
On Julian Edelman’s suspension: “Julian is a very hard working player. We’re all disappointed. But it is what it is. He’s moved on. We’ve moved on. Just take what we have now and do the best we can with it. He’s been here the past couple days. He’s got a good attitude, good work ethic, and he’ll make the most of the opportunities that he has. Whatever those are.’’
On Butler: “I’m focused on doing the best I can for the 2018 New England Patriots. That’s my job. That’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’ve always done in the past. Every day I’ve coached here, I’ve done the best that I could for this football team. I’ll continue to do that. Right now my focus is on the 2018 season. Not 2017, not 2014, 2007, not 2004, not 2001, not 2000. I’m not focused on any of those seasons. They’re done.’’
On Garrappolo: “I’m not going to engage on stuff that happened eight months ago. We can talk about a million things that happened 20 years ago. I’m not there.’’
On the national anthem policy: “The policy is being reviewed by the league and the Player’s Association. I’m not involved in that.’’
On reports the Patriots are shopping Malcolm Mitchell: “I’m not going to engage in media speculation. Unless you have some professional comment on that, which I haven’t seen yet. I haven’t talked to any media person about Malcolm Mitchell so you’d have to talk to whoever that is.’’
How this year compares to others: “We have new players, different schedule. Everything’s different. 2018 is 2018. There’s never been another year like it. We do the best we can to prepare for all the things we have to deal with. There are a lot of things going forward that we don’t know whats going to happen. As things come up, we’ll try to do what’s best for the football team and put ourselves in the most competitive position that we can.”