FOXBORO, Mass. — Some notes and nuggets from Friday’s New England Patriots media availability at Gillette Stadium:
— Patriots coach Bill Belichick spoke earlier this week about how difficult it will be to replace special teams ace Nate Ebner, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday’s win over the Miami Dolphins.
On Friday, he went deep on one specific role Ebner usually fills: the personal protector — or upback — on the punt team, which Belichick called “one of the toughest spots to play.”
“It’s kind of like playing quarterback,” Belichick explained. “But you play quarterback for, call it 60 plays a game, 70 plays a game. You only punt five to 10 times, let’s call it. Somewhere in there. But there’s a lot of different variables, … (and) a good personal protector takes all those into consideration, just like a quarterback does. A) Protect the punter. B) He’s the last line of defense.
“So a lot of times, even if your protection is not right on the front, if that guy gets the right guy and does the right thing, you still could possibly save a blocked punt by just him doing the right thing, even though somebody else has made a mistake in the front of it. …
“It’s not an easy job at all if you want to do it right and get the most out of it.”
Ebner, a second-team All-Pro last season, has served as the team’s punt protector since 2013. But even that position has a depth chart. Safeties Patrick Chung and Jordan Richards both have played there before, with Richards replacing Ebner on Sunday after his injury.
“Pat’s done it for us,” Belichick said. “Jordan’s done it for us. Obviously, Nate did a great job of it. Those guys all meet together and work together, just like the quarterbacks do. They all learn the same things so that they all understand what the options are, and what’s a good option against one team might be a bad option against another team. It frequently is.”
— Quarterback Tom Brady showed off the cleats he’ll be wearing Sunday as part of the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative.
“I have a pretty cool pair that Under Armor made me, and I’ve supported a bunch of different charities and foundations over the years,” Brady said. “I kind of wanted to represent a lot of those. So there’s a lot kind of on my cleats. There’s probably, I don’t know, 10 to 12 of them that are highlighted. Afterward, I think the money is going to go to Best Buddies that we’re auctioning off.”
Fourteen Patriots players and Belichick all will rock specially designed cleats this weekend, supporting a wide variety of causes.
“I thought it was a really cool thing that the NFL is doing with this,” Brady said. “There’s a lot of things that are near and dear to people’s heart and things that they support and it’s nice to be able to auction off something like that for some great causes.”
— Brady was the best-dressed Patriots player Friday, narrowly beating out Rob Gronkowski, who, for some reason, has been pairing a Canada Goose jacket with basketball shorts and slippers all week.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images