Bill Belichick is a lot of things, both real and imagined, but he rarely uses the media to take shots at opponents. Sure, he went off on Freddie Mitchell, but I'm not even sure that counts. Mitchell was flapping his gums about the Patriots prior to Super Bowl XXXIX and it prompted this response from Belichick: "All he does is talk. He's terrible, and you can print that. I was happy when he was in the game."
I mention that encounter because despite Belichick's sometimes tumultuous relationship with the New York Jets -- he resigned a half-hour after accepting the gig in 1999, and didn't appear to be particularly fond of former assistant Eric Mangini once he took the job in 2006 (This probably didn't help; on the upside, Bill and Herm never had any problems, and there's video evidence as proof. [Waves at camera, mouths "hello," laughs hysterically.]) -- he has yet to go "FredEx" on anybody associated with the team.
Most recently, that would include new head coach, Rex Ryan, who explained during a recent radio interview that he "never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's rings."
Belichick's response? Typically laconic bordering on comatose.
I have a lot of respect for Rex. What he did in Baltimore - the defense his team has played. We've always had great battles with the Jets, so I'm sure that will continue. It's a good rivalry. They beat us up here last year. They kind of got the last punch in on that one, so we will have to...It's a new year. Right now we are more focused on Buffalo than any other team in the division because we open with them, but we know we are going to have to deal with Miami and the Jets as well and we have a lot of respect for all those teams.
And when he was asked if there had been more talking than usual this offseason, Belichick added, "Oh, I don't know. Right now I'm just trying to coach our team and get our guys ready to have a good week of practice and get them ready for training camp. That's really what we're up for is getting our team ready and when it's time to play we will show up to play."
Translation: "I don't have anything to say publicly, but know this: I've already posted Ryan's comments in the locker room, and will offer it up as proof that teams around league don't respect us. Now that Rodney's moved on to television, we really don't have that one player to misconstrue every quote as an insult, play the disrespect card, and channel it into game-day motivation. So, yeah, thanks, Rex -- and feel free to pencil in two ass-whuppins' on the schedule now because, well, they're coming."
Two seasons ago, when the Patriots averaged more than 35 points a game, they were often accused of running up the score (the back-to-back beatdowns the Dolphins and the Redskins immediately come to mind). That'll seem humane and reasonable by comparison.
Actually, I doubt Belichick has given Ryan's words much thought, at least for now. But I also expect to see these quotes dredged up in the days leading up to the game (Sept. 20 and Nov. 22, in case you're wondering), so there's that.
As for what'll happen when the teams get together, I have no idea. If Tom Brady is fully recovered, the 2009 Patriots offense could be better than the 2007 version, and that's a horrifying thought for the rest of the league. On the other hand, the Ravens came the closest to beating New England during their undefeated season, thanks, largely, to a Rex Ryan-coordinated defense. And maybe this time, if it's late in the game and Ryan has a chance to put the Pats away, he won't get tight. Or worse: call a timeout at the worst possible moment.