Several NFL players have criticized Bill Belichick for the strict nature with which he runs his team, and some of the most respected veterans in the New England Patriots’ locker room think all the talk is nonsense.
Defensive end Cassius Marsh, who now plays for the San Francisco 49ers, made headlines earlier this week when he said there is “nothing fun” about playing for the Patriots and criticized the way he was used during his time there. That jived with what Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Lane Johnson said about the culture in New England following the Super Bowl. After organized team activities on Thursday, Patriots captains Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower defended their coach.
“If we go 0-16, it probably won’t be fun,” McCourty said, per Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. “I think now, you look at a team who beats us in the Super Bowl, and you get guys who are talking about it, that’s front page news. Then Cassius leaves. He played here. He had a frustrating time here, so I don’t expect him to leave and say he had a great time. But if you ask any guy on this team, (they’ll say) the fun comes from hanging with each other … the relationships between the guys, a lot of our fun happens in the locker room before we even come out here and have fun winning football games.”
Hightower seemed to agree.
“I know it’s not for everybody. It’s definitely harder than most places, but that’s part of it,” the linebacker said. “A lot of guys know that when they come here. In the locker room, it’s not Bill’s job to make this fun, this atmosphere fun, it’s the guys around it. Every guy in that locker room I love like a brother. We have fun whether we’re out here struggling together with blood, sweat and tears, or we’re hanging out, outside of football. There’s a time and place for everything. But we know when walk through the building, it’s time to work.”
All of this talk of not having enough fun seems to have people forgetting that these are professional athletes who get paid millions of dollars to play. McCourty alluded to that.
“Obviously, we work for a living so in this business, you have to win,” he said. “When you lose, it’s not fun. People get fired. You lose your job. That’s not fun. So I wouldn’t believe anyone who told me they only won half their games, and were having the best time of their lives.”
Former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who won three Super Bowls with the team and has always been a Belichick supporter, also chimed in.
Players that don’t like their Patriot experience are the ones that can’t take tough coaching, get eaten up by the pressure, blame others for failures and expect things are supposed to be given to them.
— Tedy Bruschi (@TedyBruschiESPN) May 31, 2018
For what it’s worth, two of the Patriots’ biggest stars have breathed life into the discussion — whether they intended to or not. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have not been attending voluntary workouts, and there have been rumblings that their absences have something to do with their dissatisfaction with Belichick. If what Hightower and McCourty said is any indication, the same cannot be said for every player in New England.