NFL Network analyst Albert Breer used to cover the New England Patriots – first for the Boston Herald and then for the Boston Globe. Thus, he has spent a lot of time around Bill Belichick and has gotten to know him, not to mention the organization, quite well.
And that is why Wednesday was so shocking.
Belichick took to the podium for his first news conference since Aaron Hernandez’s arrest, and what the typically quiet, surly, give-nothing-away coach did was – in the words of Breer – “unprecedented.”
Belichick was open; Belichick was honest; Belichick showed his human side.
And Breer couldn’t believe it.
“I’ve never seen him act like that in public before,” Breer said on The John Feinstein Show. “I think what you saw from Bill yesterday was what I think most of us wanted – which is a recognition that this is bigger than football and that what’s going on with Aaron Hernandez goes way beyond that. This isn’t Lawyer Milloy getting cut. This isn’t Randy Moss getting traded. This isn’t Tim Tebow getting signed. This is in a completely different category.
“I think that if he had gotten up there and grunted through the press conference and said, ‘This guy’s not on my team anymore, so it’s not my concern,’ there would have been a real reason to criticize him for it. I think the way that he handled it was perfect. He didn’t go too far into areas that could’ve put him in a bad position or the team in a bad position, but he showed a human side, he showed sympathy for those affected and I think that he even showed us the wound a little bit. He showed a little bit of an embarrassment that his team would any way be connected to something like this.”
It’s conceivable that Robert Kraft, Roger Goodell or some outside force put Belichick up to this. Breer doesn’t think so.
“Bill’s one of the smartest people, I think, in sports,” Breer said. “My understanding is he wrote this statement himself. I don’t think Bill would necessarily just take orders from somebody. I think he knew (the) gravity of the situation (and) took that into account. He also knew he (was) going to be spending the next six months (trying to get his team to focus on the season). And I think part of that was putting himself out there and holding himself accountable. If he didn’t take responsibility at least in part for having (Hernandez) on the team, there would have been a lot more questions for a lot of people to answer.”
In other words, Belichick did something he never does publicly (which is being open, honest and contrite) to do something he always does publicly (which is protecting his players and the franchise).
“I do think, in the end, what we saw from Bill yesterday was the way Bill really feels about it,” Breer said. “I thought it was sincere, and I think he’s been able to strike a balance between that and doing what was in the best interest of the team and the organization.”