FOXBORO, Mass. — As Gillette Stadium emptied out Sunday night after the Patriots’ 31-28 victory against the Colts, two people emerged from the tunnel, lacrosse sticks in hand, and caused cleanup crew in attendance to pause for a double-take.
It was Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Boston Cannons midfielder Paul Rabil, and the pair played catch for almost a half hour. They’ve known each other for about four years, due to Belichick’s involvement with the game of lacrosse and his relationship with Johns Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala.
A few weeks ago, Rabil told Belichick he'd be in town over the weekend to host a lacrosse clinic, and Belichick invited Rabil to sit in the coach's suite for the Pats-Colts game. After the game, Belichick gave Rabil a tour of the facility and brought him into his office, where Belichick always keeps his lacrosse stick, and he asked Rabil to go outside and play catch.
"Getting to know [Belichick] has been awesome," Rabil said. "Anytime I get the opportunity to talk with him about sports, be it football, lacrosse or just sporting mentality, I never hesitate. The last time I was on the Gillette field [for Johns Hopkins’ 2008 national championship loss to Syracuse] it didn’t end up the way I wanted it to. So, it was good to get back out there on a more positive note."
Rabil, who was the 2009 Major League Lacrosse MVP, said Belichick has mentored him about how to be a great leader, among other things, and they've had countless conversations together about lacrosse and football. Rabil has been so impressed with Belichick's lacrosse knowledge that he was joking around Sunday with some of the Patriots' players in the locker room, saying they’ve taken Belichick from his true calling.
"Not having [Belichick] as a lacrosse coach is the biggest chance the sport has left behind," Rabil said. "Football stole him from the lacrosse fields out of college. He would’ve been one of the great lacrosse coaches, without a doubt. He loves talking about it."
Rabil said Belichick has actually attended a handful of his games, too, so Sunday was somewhat of a reciprocation for that. But the next time Belichick pays Rabil a visit, they might play a different kind of catch.
"If I had a football in my locker," Rabil said, "I'd ask him if he wanted to have a throw."