Tom Brady may say he can’t remember having a beer with Bill Belichick, but Pepper Johnson sure can.
Johnson has a long history playing and coaching under Belichick, both as a linebacker for the New York Giants in the 1980s and as a defensive assistant coach for the New England Patriots from 2000 to 2014. So, of course, he shared a couple beers with Belichick along the way. In a wide-ranging interview published Friday on Deadspin, the famously press-shy Johnson shared what the Patriots coach was like when he went out with the rest of the team.
Spoiler: Belichick doesn’t exactly sound like the life of the party.
According to Johnson, fellow former Giants linebacker Harry Carson would convince Giants coach Bill Parcells to give him some of the team’s fine money to take the linebacking crew out. The outings even included Belichick, who was then the team’s defensive coordinator — not that he was in it for the long haul.
“We’d go to Fuddruckers and everybody’d make a hamburger, and this, that, and the other,” Johnson told Deadspin. “Even Belichick. Belichick came out, too. Belichick—he wouldn’t have more than three beers, and then he would go back to the office and go to work.”
What? That doesn’t sound like the coach Patriots fans know.
Johnson said that Belichick later switched from primarily coaching linebackers to coaching defensive backs. He said that when Giants cornerback Mark Collins would tried to get the coach to have beers with them, Belichick would only drink O’Doul’s, a nonalcoholic beer.
“So we started clowning the defensive backs, like, ‘Man, ya’ll can’t even get Belichick to drink a beer? He’s going to drink O’Doul’s with ya’ll!'” Johnson said.
During his with the Patriots, Johnson said that Belichick would take the team out — typically to steakhouses — but that even then his mind remained on football. Per Deadspin:
How was he in New England with going out?
Uh. [long pause] Belichick would take us out. He would thank us. Most likely it was like a Ruth’s Chris or something like that. Now, have I ever seen Bill with two or three drinks? Yes. But I can’t say I’ve ever seen him—like, he’s not a lush. He came to LT’s 56th birthday in New York; this was when I was coaching with the Jets. The first thing he says to me is something football-related, something LT did or he said—it was something football-related. This guy’s head, it never gets off of football.
While Johnson admitted he had seen Belichick with “two or three drinks” as a coach, he never saw him drunk. Likewise, Johnson never wanted to let Belichick see him drunk, lest he get ragged on by the coach.
“He would have clowned me,” Johnson said. “We’d be watching film. ‘Yeah, you can turn up that Jack Daniel’s or you can drink that, but you can’t sit over here and make this tackle.’ I didn’t want to give him any ammunition.”
Click over to Deadspin to read the full interview.