WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – Jimmy Johnson knows a little something about building a powerhouse NFL franchise, as he did in Dallas in the early 1990s. Through his longtime friendship with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Johnson has probably had some influence on the dynasty that shows little sign of slowing down these days in New England.
When the two met decades ago at the Kentucky Derby, no one could have predicted where Belichick would ascend to in the world of football. But his spot, according to Johnson, is quite clear.
“He’s the best ever, and I made that statement before the (Super Bowl), but I also made that statement a year ago and two years ago,” Johnson told Patriots.com recently. “It’s not something I just recently decided. Having watched Bill over the years, it goes all the way back to Cleveland, when we first met and built a relationship.
“He covers all the bases. He’s very thorough. He approaches the job in a way that every coach should envy. And one thing about his teams, they’re always better prepared than their opponents. And that’s because of him.”
Like Belichick, Johnson oversaw both coaching and personnel in his time in Dallas and later with the Dolphins. It’s an almost infinitely demanding responsibility that generally is too much for those who are even given the chance to wear both hats.
“The job is almost overwhelming, and obviously you’ve got to have the right kind of people assisting you and helping you do it the right way,” Johnson said. “And Bill does. But there’s very few in the NFL, and very few that’s been in the NFL who can do all the jobs that he does.
“I’ll just say one more thing about Bill Belichick: He’s the best.”
Belichick had a couple of his coaching friends from other sports on hand as guests during the joint practice action with the Texans. That included former Major League Baseball manager Tony La Russa and former Indiana University men’s basketball coach Tom Crean.
“When we’re together, I’m asking the questions, he’s talking, and I’m taking notes. He’s not taking my notes,” LaRussa said with a chuckle before highlighting what he sees as the strength of his pal’s coaching style.
“I believe his ability and his staff’s ability, and his team’s ability to start at zero every year – refuse to think about last year – is an important part of why they are so consistent. It’s easy to celebrate the next year. The ability to turn the clock to zero is really impressive and very hard.”
“My relationship with Tony has been great,” Belichick said. “I’ve learned a lot from somebody as accomplished as he is in another sport. I’ll never forget the time he let me get in the dugout with him for an exhibition game. Baseball – it seems like just throw it and hit it, but there’s a lot more to it than that. I saw just how much there is on every single pitch and the focus, concentration, all of that.”
Crean offered up his observations about Belichick, the coach and the person.
“Everything matters every day,” Crean said. “As simple as that sounds, it’s very complex and hard because there are so many things that can distract, that can interrupt that, can get in the way of it. When I think of fundamentals, and preaching the fundamentals and details on a day-to-day basis – and then watching it come out in his team – that’s one place you’re going to look. He leaves nothing to chance. It would be hard to imagine something missing his radar or the people that are around him.
“He’s been very, very good to me, very helpful,” added Crean. “I think that’s one of the reasons he’s such a great leader, great developer of teams, programs, players. He’s always inquisitive. You can get an idea of how great he is with his team because of the way he helps his friends.”
“Again, different sport,” Belichick said of his kinship with Crean, “but I learned a lot from his organization … Different motivations, teachings, he is a very progressive guy … We speak pretty frequently.
Elliott’s appeal game plan includes highlighting Thompson’s already chronicled text messages encouraging a friend to lie to police about an alleged domestic assault on July 22, misleading testimony to NFL lead investigator Lisa Friel, and repeated threats to ruin his career after breaking off the relationship.Elliott has not talked to the media since the start of training camp, and was escorted from the locker room following Saturday’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams.
But he made his feelings known on Twitter on Friday, saying he was “both surprised and disappointed by the NFL’s decision” and “I strongly disagree with the league’s findings.”
His representatives also blasted the NFL in a statement Friday for their “factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions” and promised “a slew of additional credible and controverting evidence will come to light” during the appeal.
It’s unclear what role Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will play in the appeal. But a source says Jones is “angry” about the suspension after being adamant that, after reviewing all of the league’s evidence, no assault occurred and Elliott would not be disciplined.
Jones also has uncharacteristically not spoken with the media since the suspension.
Elliott’s absence will leave a massive hole in the Cowboys’ offense. He led the league in rushing a season ago as a rookie and is a home-run threat whenever the ball is in his hands.
“For us it’s very shocking,” running back Darren McFadden said. “We didn’t know what was going on exactly. To hear six games, it was definitely a surprise to us. We didn’t expect anything to happen. But they made a decision. For us as a team, we are going to rally around him and keep going forward.”
(Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange)
FOXBORO — There are few things that players, coaches, fans and media agree on. But it’s hard to find anyone in those groups with a negative word about training camp practices between NFL teams.
So when the Patriots opened up joint workouts with the Jaguars on Monday on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium in front of huge crowds of fans and a massive media contingent, nothing but positives were voiced in the post-practice interviews.
“They’re really beneficial,” said New England tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“Obviously it’s always good to go versus each other as a team, but when you get a new opponent, when you get new looks, new defense, new players, it’s always great. It’s like more of a game feel and everything. It’s very beneficial for myself and the whole team.”
Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler agreed. While the former Pro Bowl defender faces the likes of Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and the foundation of an elite passing attack each practice, shaking off the familiarity of those battles has clear benefits.
“It’s great to work against somebody other than Julian, (Danny) Amendola and our guys,” Butler said after a practice in which he notched an interception against Jacksonville starter Blake Bortles.
Butler said the intensity of going against a different team, even in a practice setting, brings everything closer to the level of game action that’s less than a month away.
“I most definitely got winded out there, going hard each and every play,” Butler said, “but that’s what we need. The season is near … well, the season is here. Practice turns into game reality. Got to work hard.”
New England has three days of work with the Jags heading into the preseason opener for both teams. Then, the Patriots will travel to West Virginia to Texans camp for a few days of joint work with Houston. Joint sessions have become the norm for Bill Belichick’s teams in recent years, but not everyone is used to the format.
“Today is my first time going against another team in training camp,” said new Patriots linebacker David Harris, who spent 10 seasons with the New York Jets.
“It was good to hit someone other than ourselves … it’s a high level of competition on both sides. It’s a good measuring stick. That’s what these practices are for, to see if you can carry over from the normal practice. We’re still learning, it’s still training camp. Still have a long way to go, but it’s a good start.”
In practice Monday against Jacksonville, the Patriots’ offense made plenty of plays but also had some issues with dropped passes and miscommunications. Gronkowski had a rare drop.
“We’ve always got a lot of work to put in,” he said. “No matter if we caught every ball (or) if we got a first down every play, there’s always work that you can put in.”
And as Belichick has referenced in the past, sometimes there is no better place to get that done than in joint practice action this time of year. Gronkowski said the value of these reps can surpass even game action at this point in the process.
“(During) joint practices you can analyze the play right after, go to your coach, see what’s going on, see what you did wrong,” Gronkowski said.
“Games, it’s more, ‘Boom, you’re on to the next play.’ But out here in practice you can definitely get the feel of it, learn from your mistakes and keep getting better.”
–RB Mike Gillislee has been in full pads but only doing rehab work during recent Patriots training camp practice as he deals with an apparent hamstring injury.
–WR Malcolm Mitchell has practiced since the first day of camp, despite being on the practice field in full pads. The second-year receiver, who dealt with a knee injury last fall and dealt with injury issues at Georgia, has been doing rehab work on a side practice field.
–WR Cody Hollister has not practiced since the second day of training camp due to an apparent left shoulder injury. The undrafted rookie has been on the practice field in recent days doing rehab work.
–OT Nate Solder has missed the last three practices due to an unknown injury. The veteran has been on the field in full pads doing rehab work