Bill Belichick said, “I’ll be alright” after missing his usual postgame press conference Sunday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBORO — It was an usual couple of minutes at Gillette Stadium following the Patriots’ 17-9 loss to the Bills in the regular-season finale, as coach Bill Belichick did not speak to the media at the podium immediately after the game.
It was announced that he would hold a conference call later in the evening because he was meeting with the trainers, but it was nothing serious.
Belichick held a conference call with the media at 5 p.m. — about 45 minutes after he normally would have spoken — saying everything was OK.
“I just want to apologize to everybody,” Belichick said. “I didn’t want to hold anybody up here today. I had to spend a few minutes in the training room after the game — nothing serious, just a little thing to look at with the trainers and a doctor. Like I said, I didn’t want to hold up everybody’s story and all that.”
When asked to expand on what forced him to the trainer’s room, Belichick didn’t have much to add.
“It’s no big deal. I don’t want to get into it,” said Belichick. “I’ll be alright.”
As for the game itself, the team went into it without many of its key players, as Rob Gronkowski, Jonas Gray, Julian Edelman, Sebastian Vollmer, Dan Connolly, Brandon Browner and Dont’a Hightower were all inactive. Tom Brady played just a half before turning it over to Jimmy Garoppolo for the second half. Brady went 8-for-16 for 80 yards, while Garoppolo went 10-for-17 for 90 yards, and the Patriots didn’t reach the end zone for the first time in a game since Oct. 7 of last season against the Bengals.
Defensively, most of the starters played just a half as well, with Chandler Jones, Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich being a few exceptions playing into the third quarter.
“It was a competitive game,” said Belichick. “We just couldn’t make enough plays, really at any point in the game — the beginning or the end, in any phase of the game to ever really take control of it or be in a position to win it. [I’m] looking forward to moving ahead this week to work on things that we need to work on. Once we find out who we’re going to play then obviously we’re looking forward to the postseason. We just have to take it as it comes, but certainly there are things that we can do this week that will help us in the long run so we’ll try to hit on some of those.”
As for the decision in making Gronkowski specifically inactive — preventing him from playing a full season since 2011 — Belichick spoke of the team as a whole.
“We had some guys that have played a lot of football for us,” Belichick said. “We felt like today would be an opportunity for us to have some guys who haven’t played as much to get an opportunity to play. That’s kind of the way we managed the team. We tried to create opportunities for some guys that the experience I think will benefit them going forward. Based on that, that’s how we handled the playing time and the inactives.”
Prior to the game, it was reported that the Patriots’ extended Nick Caserio, their director of player personnel’s contract through the end of the 2020 season. Belichick noted just how important he is to the organization.
“I think Nick does a great job for us,” said Belichick. “He probably does more than any other person in his position in the league in terms of his amount of responsibility, the number of different things he does on the coaching and the scouting level. He’s really a valuable guy that has great working knowledge of really everything that we do on the scouting end and the coaching end. So he’s able to really interface with everybody and not only evaluate players, but has a great understanding of our schemes and the coaches and coaching points and so forth – what would fit those, to be able to identify the type of fit that guys have coming in here, or lack of fit as the case would be, whatever it happens to be.”