Bill Belichick and company joined Alabama head coach Nick Saban at the University of Alabama coaching clinic the past two days. Belichick, Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees, newly acquired free agent (and former Bama alum) Fernando Bryant and longtime Belichick friend Al Groh were just some of the names headlining the event.
Belichick and Saban have remained friends since the pair first met in 1982 (according to Saban). They coached together in Cleveland when Belichick was the head coach of the Browns. Groh, was also a member of Belichick's staff, but now coaches the University of Virginia.
Belichick addressed the attendees, an audience of coaches and football instructors, with a warm smile and obvious sense of comfort from being out of the critical spotlight he was subjected to at the NFL owners meetings in Florida earlier in the week.
"These were probably two of the best days of the year for me," said Belichick to the audience. "Watching film and talking ball."
His sense of relief being among the people he enjoys most -- football people -- Belichick shared his appreciation for the company he was in. He also shared his appreciation that the questions are about the subject he covets (football) and not about the ugly side... the professional side of the sport.
"Being at the clinic last night. Just being around coaches talking football rather than salary cap, contracts, agents and all that stuff. It's good to be around just good wholesome football."
Explaining his connections to Alabama, Belichick drew upon numerous associates to tie himself into the history of the storied college football program.
"My connections to Alabama go back a long way," said Belichick who then mentioned drafting Mike Washington in Baltimore, hiring Ozzie Newsome in Cleveland and drafting defensive back Antonio Langham in the first round (at Cleveland). Belichick made a special mention of Wesley Britt, currently a Patriots offensive lineman.
"Wes Britt is on the Patriots. I promised Wes that I'd bring him a cup of dirt so he could put it in his locker, and rub a little bit on every day."
Then the New England coach mentioned Fernando Bryant, who recently joined the Patriots after being drafted out of Alabama by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round (26th overall) of the 1999 NFL Draft.
With such a strong contingent of Patriots players and coaches, it's little doubt Belichick received some inside knowledge of Alabama's Draft hopefuls for 2008. Cornerback Simeon Castille, defensive end Wallace Gilberry and wide receiver D.J. Hall are the top prospects. Castille is the most likely of the three to get a look from the Patriots.
As Belichick and crew prepare for the Draft, he continues to make the rounds of his college acquaintances. Belichick visited the University of Florida to speak with coach Urban Meyer. While there, he took in the sights of Florida's spring practice and reportedly spoke with Florida defensive lineman Derrick Harvey.
The NFL Draft is April 26-27 in New York City.
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