New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick returned to practice Friday in Foxborough after a brief absence to attend funeral services for this father Steve earlier this week. Belichick left the team on Monday to be with his family in Maryland for the service on Wednesday. Thursday was Thanksgiving, which was a day off for coaches and staff.
In Belichick's absence, offensive line and assistant head coach Dante Scarnecchia ran the team's practices. While Scarnecchia has seen just about everything in the Patriots football side of operations, he was in obvious discomfort in front of the media. His preference was to be on the field for walkthroughs
"You think about what you have to say to the team and prepare, even in a small part, for something like this," Scarnecchia said on Wednesday. "I have enough stuff that I'd rather be doing. There is a walkthrough going on out there on the field now that I'd rather be at, quite honestly."
With the day off, Belichick was able to take his time after the service to get back to his coaching responsibilities. He wasted little time getting back to business on Friday after briefly thanking the media for their treatment of his father's passing.
"I would like to thank all the members of the media for the many kind things you said in the last few days about my dad and his contributions and so forth," Belichick said in his opening remarks "And also the respect you have given me and my family for our privacy during this time. I thank you for that and I appreciate it."
The all-business coach then moved right into focusing on talk centered on the Patriots next opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs. The coach wanted little to nothing to do with more personal reflections on the passing of his dad. He talked about the game plan and the effect his absence had on the team's preparation process.
The Patriots record their practices so they can review the tapes and see what needs work. Belichick told reporters he was able to review the tapes from Tuesday and Wednesday and that everything looked like a normal practice. He offered his opinion on what he saw on those films.
"Anytime you start to work on a new team and put stuff in and run it against different looks as each team gives you from week-to-week, some things look ok and other things need to be polished up a little bit."
One thing about Belichick many New England fans already know is his propensity to build up an opponent ahead of the game. The Chiefs game is no different.
"Kansas City is as we all know a very explosive offensive football team. They have an outstanding returner, they are explosive in their return game as well," Belichick explained. "Defensively, they put a lot of pressure on you. As long as I've been around, I can't ever remember a team having a statistic like the Chiefs have on third and long, where they are giving up barely a yard per play. That's pretty unusual."
If the Patriots are to have a chance to defeat a good Kansas City team, Belichick knows the game plan that was installed while he was away will be the key. Friday and Saturday are the coaching staff's last opportunities to make adjustments to the plan to deal with those third down situations.
Playing at Kansas City will add another dimension to the matchup, which may not be in the game plan, but will be just as much a factor on game day - the crowd noise. It is one of the more difficult games on the Patriots schedule and the head coach knows it.
"Arrowhead is a tough place to play," the coach reiterated for those who harbored any doubts. "I'm sure we'll be put to the test again on Sunday afternoon."
Losing a father is enough to test a person's resolve, but the NFL is a league that has little sympathy for personal struggles. Their test comes on Sunday afternoons and Belichick wouldn't have it any other way.