FOXBORO — It worked so well on the way to a Super Bowl title that Bill Belichick brought back a moniker from 2014 to deflect the media crush Friday at Patriots OTAs outside Gillette Stadium.
Asked if the joy from February’s Super Bowl win was diminished at all by the news from Deflategate, Belichick looked toward the future.
“That’s a long time ago. We’re on to next year,” Belichick said. “It’s 2015. You forget about last year. That was last year.”
With Tom Brady facing a four-game suspension to start the season, Belichick was naturally asked if he’s preparing to start the season with second-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
“We’re just going day-by-day right now,” Belichick said. “Everybody is working hard, trying to get better. That’s what we’re all doing.”
Garoppolo, Brady and Garrett Gilbert all took snaps and turns in running the Patriots’ offense Friday during a practice that lasted nearly two hours.
“Trying to get everybody an opportunity to learn our system and get ready to compete and play and that competition will really come in training camp,” Belichick said. “This is a more a teaching camp than a competitive camp. We want to try to get everybody an opportunity to learn and understand the plays and know what to do and then we’ll let them compete in training camp and preseason games and see how it goes. It’s up to them.
“Right now, we’re in 2015. Nobody is looking back. Nobody is looking ahead. We’re just trying to come out here and get better day by day.”
Belichick would not offer any comment on what he felt about owner Robert Kraft’s decision to accept a $1 million fine and the loss of two draft picks as punishment for the organization’s role in Deflategate.
“He made a statement on it last week,” said Belichick, who was actually asked if he had any opinion on the fan movement to delay the Super Bowl banner raising until Brady returns. “Right now, we’re just concentrating on our practices out here.”
More from Belichick on Friday:
Message to rookies during controversy:
“What they need to do is go out and work hard and try to earn a job on the team. That’s what we’re all trying to do, is improve. Players are trying to compete for spots and coaches are trying to get everybody ready to compete and ready to play in a very competitive 16-game regular season schedule. So, that’s what we’re doing. There’s no other real objective.”
Has it been difficult to watch the organization in turmoil?
“We’re just working hard every day to come out here and get better,” Belichick answered. “Coaches, players, everybody in the organization, each day we’re trying to make it a little bit better than the day before. That’s where we’re at and that’s what we’re going to keep doing. I love football.”
“First week of OTAs so I feel like the players are working hard. We have a lot of guys who have really done a good job in the offseason and now they’re starting to get the opportunity to play football out on the field, come together a little bit as a team and in different groups. That’s encouraging. It’s always good to be back out there. I think that these guys so far have done a good job. We just have to build on it day-by-day. See if we can build next week off this week’s start and string some good days together.”
“This is it. We’ve had a couple of weeks with them. Prior to OTAs, it’s just drills and footwork and bags and stuff like that. There’s not a whole lot we can do. Now we can get another team in front of them and they can start to see how all the plays come together, how it looks against somebody on the other side of the ball. Communication that they have to have with each other in order to make plays work. It’s a big jump for them, big step for them. It’s a new system for all of them. As a group, they’re working hard. I respect what they’re doing. They’ve made a lot of progress. They’ve got a long way to go but they’ve made some strides.”
“That’s what this time of year is for. We’ve had a lot of preparation time. We’ve had some offseason program time and we’ve added some players to our team and now we’ll start to see them perform out there together instead of just having a bunch of names up on a board and name cards. Now, we’re actually [looking at] football players.”