Ted Johnson tells story of secret meeting with Bill Belichick at NFL Combine

Former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson recalls Bill Belichick pulling him aside for an impromptu interview at the 1995 NFL Combine when Belichick was head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

Bill Belichick NFL Combine
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is not expected to speak publicly at the NFL Combine. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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When head coaches and team executives take to the podiums ahead of the NFL Combine this week, don’t expect Bill Belichick or anyone from the Patriots to do any talking of their own.

Belichick, who frequently keeps a low profile at the combine, isn’t listed as a participant in the NFL’s media availabilities on Tuesday or Wednesday either as New England’s head coach or de facto general manager.

But that’s doesn’t mean he won’t be there or that he and the Patriots won’t be doing plenty of talking to prospects or other teams. You just might not see it happening.


Current NBC Sports analyst and former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson told an illuminating story this weekend about a clandestine moment he had with Belichick when Johnson was a prospect at the 1995 NFL Combine that speaks to how the sometimes enigmatic coach likes to move: in the shadows. Or in this case, a stairwell.

“I had scheduled interviews with certain teams, but there was one team and one coach who grabbed me in the hallway and did an impromptu — ‘Hey, come here. I need you for a few minutes. Can you come into the stairwell here? I just want to talk to you real quick in the stairwell so no one could see,'” Johnson said, as relayed by 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Felger and Mazz” show.

That coach: Bill Belichick of the Cleveland Browns, where Belichick was the head man from 1991-1995.

“He took me into the stairwell and asked me about Cover 2. Just grilled me on Cover 2. That’s typical Bill.

“At the time I didn’t know, but Bill showed interest in me when he was with the Cleveland Browns. And maybe, perhaps maybe, longshot, he’d draft me at the end of that first round.”

In the end, Belichick passed on Johnson for Ohio State linebacker Craig Powell, who played just 14 career games in the NFL. Johnson, meanwhile, went to the Patriots and Bill Parcells, Belichick’s mentor, in the second round with the No. 57 overall pick. Belichick was fired by the Browns after the 1995 season ended.


“Way to go, Bill, you could’ve had me,” Johnson said.

Of course, the two ended up working together plenty in the end. Belichick latched on with the Patriots as an assistant head coach and defensive backs coach under Parcells after his ouster by Cleveland and later became the team’s head coach in 2000.

Johnson went on to win three Super Bowl titles under Belichick before retiring after the team’s third championship in 2004, having played his entire career with the Patriots.


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