FOXBORO — With the arrival of Thanksgiving, Patriots players have been put through the usual round of questions about their favorite traditions and foods associated with the holiday.
We took a similar spin with Bill Belichick’s coaching staff. Last week, with the assistant coaches available, we asked each one what he was most thankful for with respect to the particular group he coaches.
Running backs coach Ivan Fears reveals how the group has remained positive despite getting criticized in the media for a lack of production. Wide receivers coach/special teams coordinator Joe Judge talks about his group and the team in general not being “punch-the-clock” type of guys. Defensive line coach Bret Bielema, meanwhile, discusses the “buy-in” factor from the group and how that sets the Patriots, who are preparing for their Sunday night meeting with the Texans, apart from other teams.
It’s interesting to note that there’s a common thread that runs through many of the answers. One of the reasons the Patriots are 10-1, lies in these answers.
Here’s how the coaches responded:
Running backs coach Ivan Fears – “I’m thankful for all of them. I’ll tell you what, I’ve got a great room. That is truly a blessing for me. I’ve got great guys who are great people who love the game, who have a great passion for the game, who are easy to work with and they’re easy to coach no matter how hard I get. I can be myself with these guys, they’re thick-skinned, they take my so-called praise very well, and my bad coaching also very well. I’ve got a great room. I really do. For me, this is really fun. Every day, I walk in, I have a smile, and I get a smile back no matter what’s going on. As hard as the season has been from the press and everyone else, this has been awesome, it truly has been awesome. For them, I’m thankful we’re finding a way to win. That’s all I can say.”
Wide receivers coach/special teams coordinator Joe Judge – “I’m very thankful how they come to work every day, and work to get better. Not everybody does that everywhere. Some guys come in and punch the clock. I think we have a group of guys that are fully committed to doing whatever they need to do to help the team. And that’s tremendous. Because when you put in a lot of hours, and you’re working a lot of late nights, and you come in the next morning and you’re tired, but the guys you’re giving the information to are very receptive, they’re very engaged, and they’re looking to execute the best they can, that’s very rewarding. And that makes you feel like you’re contributing, and you are helping the team win. That doesn’t go unnoticed. So I’m very thankful for how these guys work. I think that sometimes goes unnoticed. There’s a lot of talented guys in this league who show up and know their talent will be enough to get them to a certain point on Sunday. I think we have a group of guys, regardless of talent level, who come to work every day, so that Sunday, they can out-execute their opponent.”
Inside linebacker coach Jerod Mayo – “I’m thankful for just the overall attitude of the group, how those guys come into work each and every day. We have a good mix, older guys, younger guys. Those guys are always coming in ready to work both on and off the field. So I’m thankful for that.”
Defensive line coach Bret Bielema – “I’m thankful to come into the building every day, and work with players that really believe in what they’re here for. You have NFL players all around the league, but I think in particular, our guys believe in what they’re being told. They buy into what we’re asking them to do. They’re very unselfish. It’s just a great working environment to work with them every day.”
Tight ends coach Nick Caley: “I’m thankful for their unselfishness, their work ethic, and just their attitude every single day. They come to work, and I appreciate that group or room in general. They’re great to be around, and I’m thankful for all of those guys. I really am. They’re good people. It’s great to be around good people.”
Outside linebackers coach DeMarcus Covington – “I’m thankful to be here in the first place, to have a job here with the New England Patriots. I’m thankful for the guys that I have in my room, the men that they are, the men that they are in the building, the men they are to their families. And what they do for this game, and what they do outside of this building. We’re all thankful for that. We’re thankful for me being able to coach, and God giving us the ability to go out there and play.”
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