Bill Belichick wasn’t interested in rehashing the Stephon Gilmore trade ahead of Sunday’s Patriots-Panthers matchup — or saying much of anything about the former New England cornerback, for that matter.
The Patriots head coach offered brief responses to multiple Gilmore-related questions during his Wednesday news conference. New England traded Gilmore to Carolina for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick in early October, ending a months-long contract dispute between the team and the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Here’s what Belichick had to say about Gilmore as his team prepared to face the star cover man for the first time since the trade:
Question: What are the challenges of going against a guy like Stephon, a guy you know well who looks like he’s back to his old self?
Belichick: “Again, we talk about it every week. Each week, there’s players that we know or we’ve had or that have been here or whatever it is. That type of situation comes up every week.”
Question: But does it seem like he’s back to his old self?
Belichick: “Um, he played about 20 plays last week.”
Question: How did you see the Panthers use Steph in his debut last week?
Belichick: “Like I said, they played him about 20 plays. Most of it was on third-down passing situations. But he played throughout the game. Played some inside, played some outside.”
Question: What did Stephon Gilmore mean to this team over the last four years?
Belichick: “Yeah, I think we talked about Steph a lot. Any comments I made when he left here, that’s the way I feel. I have a ton of respect for him.”
Belichick released a statement on Oct. 6 saying Gilmore and the Patriots “mutually agreed to part ways.” Gilmore, who played a key role on New England’s 2018 championship team, was traded later that day.
“I am grateful to Stephon Gilmore for his significant contributions to our team,” the statement read. “It was a privilege and pleasure to coach Steph, I appreciate him for the true professional and class act that he is and wish him all the best in the future.”
Gilmore made his Panthers debut this past Sunday, playing 17 defensive snaps (mostly against rookie tight end Kyle Pitts) and notching a game-sealing interception in a win over the Atlanta Falcons. After that game, Gilmore told reporters this week’s Patriots matchup has “a lotta extra” meaning for him.
“I think he’s going to bring it,” former Patriots cornerback Ty Law said Tuesday on WEEI’s “Greg Hill Show.” “He’s going to wait for them to challenge him. I know he knows the receivers well. I know he feels that he?s superior. And he’s been waiting for this game. I talked to him; this was the target game once he got traded. This was the target game.”
Kickoff this Sunday in Charlotte is set for 1 p.m. ET.