FOXBOROUGH – New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick credited his team’s veteran leaders along with a pair of former players on his coaching staff for helping his team get through the difficulties of this week in the aftermath of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin going into cardiac arrest on Monday.
A pair of those veteran leaders gave kudos to Belichick on Thursday. Matthew Slater, who’s the longest-tenured Patriot and has played with the team since 2008, said his coach shined this week.
“So often, people like to paint Bill as being this emotionless guy that just cares about one thing, has a one-track mind,” Matthew Slater said. “But this week, I’ve certainly seen the compassion and empathy, the human side, if you will, of Bill.”
“He’s been very compassionate,” Slater added. So I think it’s really helped the team navigate the week. I think you definitely tip your cap to the way he’s led.”
The Patriots’ Pro Bowl edge rusher Matthew Judon concurred with what Slater said.
“I think he’s done a great job just trying to connect with us, trying to break it away from football and actually having life conversations in a team setting, which, you know, he really doesn’t do,” Matthew Judon said.
“He doesn’t only think of us as football players, or he doesn’t only care about us when we’re healthy. He actually took the time to communicate and just talk person-to-person, not a coach to a player.”
Matthew Judon said that Bill Belichick reached out to the team in groups and individually following Monday’s event w/Damar Hamlin to see how everyone was holding up. #Patriots #ForeverNE pic.twitter.com/kEvwMCHHfF
— Conor Roche (@ConorRoche27) January 5, 2023
Earlier Thursday, Belichick and special teams coordinator Cam Achord both said that they’ve spoken with players about the situation with Hamlin on a personal level. Belichick reached out to players in groups and individually, according to Judon. Achord said that the coaches have had an open-door policy, which players have taken advantage of.
To add to the unfortunate situation, the Patriots are in a weird spot. They have to face the Bills on Sunday with their playoff hopes on the line. Judon acknowledged that “it’s tough” to move on from the incident, but he doesn’t think it’ll mess up their intensity for Sunday’s game.
“When you go out there, it’s going to be hard not to think about it, but it’s not going to be hard to go out there and compete,” Judon said.