New England Patriots deflect talk of perfection as camp opens

By The Sports Xchange  |  July 28, 2017 at 1:24 PM
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FOXBORO, Mass. -- Bill Belichick isn't new to questions about a possible undefeated season.

Back in 2007 his new-look Patriots, buoyed by the additions of Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Adalius Thomas, flew out of the gates with seven straight wins by 17 points or more on the way to a 16-0 regular season. That march through the record books ended with an upset loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

A decade later, the questions about a possible perfect season are coming a bit earlier. The defending champion Patriots' aggressive offseason -- trading for wide receiver Brandin Cooks and signing cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the biggest free agent deal in team history -- elevated already-high expectations for the defending Super Bowl champs.

USA Today's season preview projected New England to repeat, this time with a 19-0 record.

So, it's not surprising that Belichick was asked about the high expectations in his first press conference of the summer on the eve of the team's first practice.

Of course, it's also not surprising that the future Hall of Fame coach deflected such media- and fan-driven chatter.

"Right now, we're just trying to have a good day here today, get off to a good start in training camp," Belichick responded when a reporter broached the topic of an undefeated season. "We're not really worried about all that's in the future. That will come when it comes."

In a follow-up question, the coach was asked how he would keep his team focused amid such potential distractions.

"We're focused on one day at a time. Like I said, I guess I missed some of the big reading you guys have had," Belichick said. "Honestly, I don't really pay any attention to it. Sorry."

The players were actually a bit more emphatic than their coach in swatting down 19-0 talk.

"I think it's quite foolish to believe and to buy into some of the things that are being said about our football team right now," said Pro Bowl special teamer and team captain Matthew Slater.

"We have yet to go out and have a competitive practice in pads in 2017, so I think we need to remember that and understand that it's hard to have success in this league. There are so many good players, so many good coaches. I honestly think it's quite disrespectful to say some of the things that have been said about our football team to the other players and coaches in this league."

The Patriots, according to early Vegas' odds, are favored to win every regular-season game. Many expect them to march right to Minneapolis this February to defend their title in Super Bowl LII.

"To say before we even tackle somebody, throw a pass, that we're going to beat everybody on our schedule, I think that is kind of disrespectful to the work and what everyone is trying to put in to be a team," said Pro Bowl safety and captain Devin McCourty.

"Obviously every goal from every team is to not lose. You don't go out there and plan to lose, but I think to not see anything from a team and say they're going to win every game and disrespect every opponent on the schedule is kind of ludicrous. But I think the good thing is we don't pay attention to that.

"We kind of know we have a good group of guys that have been here for a while that knows what it takes to go in and have a good football team, knows how hard it is to go out there every Sunday or whatever day you play and win a game."

New England has opened camp with arguably the most talented roster the team has ever fielded.

Just don't expect too many in Foxborough to acknowledge that fact.

"Long process, one step at a time, we have a long, long way to go," Belichick said.

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