Most of the joy from Sunday's 24-17 win over the New Orleans Saints evaporated in the Patriots' postgame locker room when coach Bill Belichick revealed that his father had died the night before. Belichick immediately left the team and returned to Annapolis, Md., where his dad had lived for much of his life.
Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia will run the team until Belichick returns.
"I can feel his pain because I've been through that situation before," said defensive end Richard Seymour, whose father died, by his own hand, in a murder-suicide before the 2004 season. "He was emotional about it. He didn't want to tell the team until after the game. ... You could tell he was heavy-hearted. He didn't break down or anything, but you could tell he was passionate about it."
Steve Belichick, 86, was an assistant football coach at the Naval Academy for 33 years, retiring in 1989. His specialty was advance scouting, and he would often take his son along with him on scouting trips. By the time the younger Belichick was 9 or 10, he was breaking down game film -- the start of a coaching career that has blossomed with three Super Bowl titles in the last four years.
Steve Belichick was on the sideline for Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville in February. He and his son had their arms around each other when linebacker Tedy Bruschi gave both of them a celebratory dunking with the contents of a Gatorade bucket.
Steve Belichick was a frequent visitor to the Patriots' facility. Quarterback Tom Brady recalled the elder Belichick kidding him about the yellow jeep Brady drove in his rookie season of 2000.
"He used to give me crap about it, he sure did," Brady said. "But I always had a great relationship with him. He would always be in my ear and he had a great perspective. He coached football for a long time. He was Coach Belichick's mentor, and he really was just a great person. It was always nice having him around. All the players enjoyed having him around. He would sit in on meetings and be out on the field. He always had words of wisdom for us."
Linebacker Willie McGinest said he admired Bill Belichick for the way he handled the situation on a game day.
"It just shows you how much the guy loves the game," McGinest said. "For him not to say anything about anything and to be up all night and (have) that going through his head, you gotta take your hat off to the guy. ... For Bill to be here with us, that was special. That just shows you his commitment to this football team."
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