By Jenna West
Reporting from Houston
Less than 24 hours after winning his fifth Super Bowl victory, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick already feels behind for the 2017 season.
When asked at the MVP trophy presentation in Houston Monday about stopping to enjoy the moment, Belichick said he needs to look ahead.
“We’re five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in the league,” Belichick said the morning after his team’s 34-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
For Belichick catching up means concentrating on the free agency moves ahead. He has 14 players up for free agency in a month.
“If you don’t do a good job with your football team in Febrauary, March, and April,” Belichick said, “you’re probably going to see that in November, December, and January.”
Linebacker Don’t’a Hightower’s name is on that free agent list. Hightower’s key sack in Super Bowl LI’s third quarter led to a fumble recovery, that resulted in a touchdown and a two-point conversion. That put the Pats within 8 points of Atlanta after being down by a whopping 25 points in the first half.
“I’m not sure we could have won without that play,” Belichick said.
Coming to the rescue is nothing new for Hightower. During New England’s last Super Bowl appearance in 2015 against the Seattle Seahawks Hightower tackled Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch at the 1-yard line with less than a minute left on the clock. Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler infamously intercepted Russell Wilson’s pass in the next play to win the game.
Joining Hightower on the free agent list is tight end Martellus Bennett. Bennett was traded from the Chicago Bears to the Patriots in 2016 with one year left on his four-year deal. He had five catches for 62 yards in Super Bowl LI.
The day-after news conference wasn’t about business. When asked if he would change his boat’s name to 7 Rings, which he changes with every Super Bowl win, Belichick’s answer was to the point.
“Yeah, I’m working on that,” Belichick replied with a laugh.