FOXBORO, Mass. — As the New England Patriots navigate the aftermath of Monday night’s frightening scene in Cincinnati, head coach Bill Belichick has leaned on two of his players-turned-coaches to guide the team.
Addressing reporters Thursday for the first time since Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field during a game against the Bengals, Belichick credited wide receivers/kick returners coach Troy Brown and linebackers coach Jerod Mayo for the leadership they’ve provided during this difficult week.
Brown and Mayo both were Super Bowl-winning star players for New England before they joined the coaching ranks, which Belichick said gives them a unique perspective on Hamlin’s situation that he, as someone who did not play professional football, cannot replicate.
“We have great leadership on this team, and I would say two people in particular,” Belichick said. “I have a ton of respect for all the players I’ve coached and what they do, and two players in particular that carry a lot of weight with me are our two staff members, Troy and Jerod. They’ve played the game at this level; I haven’t. They’ve lived the life of a professional football player at a very, very, very high level, both from a training, maturity, performance, longevity (perspective) — all of the above.
“Their input and guidance has been especially valuable. We have many other people that I’ve talked to, but in particular, they’re here and they’ve been — in terms of our staff, our team — they have a great perspective. It’s been very valuable to me, I’ll put it that way.”
Belichick spoke for nearly 10 minutes about Hamlin, saying the second-year Buffalo defensive back has been “on everybody’s mind” this week. The Patriots coach said he texted Bills counterpart Sean McDermott and reached out to the Bengals, as well, offering his thoughts and prayers to both as they navigate the aftermath of Monday night.
The scene in Cincinnati, Belichick said, reminded him of the spinal cord injury Detroit Lions linebacker Reggie Brown suffered during a 1997 game against the New York Jets. Brown, like Hamlin, had to be revived on the field with CPR before an ambulance rushed him to a local hospital. Belichick was the Jets’ defensive coordinator at the time.
“I was there,” he said. “It was chilling.”
“Life is bigger than this game,” Belichick said. “This is one of those humbling moments for all of us.”