FOXBORO, Mass. — A violation of the NFL’s offseason training regulations resulted in two lost spring practices for the New England Patriots and a five-figure fine for Bill Belichick.
On Wednesday, Belichick addressed the Patriots’ punishment for the first time.
“Good to get back on the field here today,” the head coach said before New England’s third organized team activities practice. “We had a situation with some scheduling in Phase 2. Got that all worked out, so it’s good to be back out there.”
Belichick wouldn’t divulge much more on the topic, offering the same response to multiple follow-up questions.
“It’s in the past,” he said. “We’ve moved on. Looking forward to getting out on the field today.”
The sanctions stemmed from “special teams workshops” organized by Patriots assistant Joe Judge earlier this month that resulted in players exceeding the NFL-mandated limit of four hours per day at the team facility. The Patriots viewed those informal meetings as voluntary — as all team activities must be at this stage of the offseason — but because they were listed on an internal team schedule, the NFL Players Association contended that they could be construed as mandatory.
The league agreed, and the Patriots were docked two of their 10 OTAs practices (originally scheduled for last Thursday and this Tuesday). Belichick also was fined $50,000. The NFL could have hit Belichick with a $100,000 fine and levied a financial penalty against the team, as well, but chose not to.
“The whole situation is in the past, it’s resolved, and we moved on,” Belichick said. “It was three Phase 2 meetings.”
Asked how the lost practices affected the team’s preparation, Belichick smiled and quipped: “Had a good long weekend.”
Belichick also made a point to praise Judge, who faced harsh criticism last season for his work as New England’s quarterbacks coach. Judge’s primary focus this season will be special teams — his area of expertise — but will be “involved in a lot of things,” per Belichick.
“Joe’s great,” Belichick said. “Smart guy. Has a lot of experience. He’ll do whatever we need him to do, and he can do a lot. So he will.”
Asked directly whether the Patriots’ OTAs punishment was the result of a mistake by Judge, Belichick replied: “I’m responsible for it, so that’s it.”
New England is scheduled to hold a total of 11 spring practices before breaking for the summer — eight voluntary OTAs and three mandatory minicamp sessions. Reporters will be permitted to watch Wednesday’s and next Tuesday’s OTAs and all three days of minicamp, which runs from June 12-14.