‘Zero’ distraction for Patriots players this week

Andy Hart
December 12, 2019 - 11:51 am
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As all the football world is now well aware, the Patriots are at the center of yet another controversy.

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A member of New England’s Kraft Sports Productions staff recorded the Bengals’ sideline from the press box during last Sunday afternoon’s game against the Browns in Cleveland.

It was an unfortunate mistake by someone completely outside the realm of football operations in Foxborough working on a “Do Your Job” online video feature on one of the team’s advance scouts.

But, thanks to the Patriots’ past, it’s an issue that’s now making the national nightly news and will be handled by the NFL offices, including Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Bill Belichick and the organization has taken responsibility for the mistake, but also made it quite clear that it has nothing to do with the football team or staff.

Still, it’s a potential distraction for a group players who are in the midst of as stressful two-game December losing streak as they prepare to take on the 1-12 Bengals on Sunday in Cincy.

According to the veterans in the Patriots locker room, though, the latest off-field issue is not going distract them from the business at hand.

“Stuff that’s being talked about now, us as players, it doesn’t pertain to us at all. It has zero to do with us,” Devin McCourty declared, before differentiating this week from past issues. “I remember in ’14, Deflategate, I felt like that was, for guys that played with us that season, that was kind of like a direct shot. Like we only won because we did that... But this stuff, it has nothing to do with us as players.”

Veteran running back James White made it clear that the “noise” won’t affect the team’s preparation one bit.

“It honestly doesn’t. Just kind of tune out the noise, focus on what we have to do, study up on our opponent,” White said. “We haven’t played our best football offensively the past few weeks, so we’re just trying to improve and go out there and try and play a good football game on Sunday.

“Just ignore the noise. I mean, everybody’s going to have their opinions outside the building. We know what we’re capable of doing; we’re going to go out there and execute and play football.”

That message, unsurprisingly, trickles down from the top.

“I think it’s emphasized when you step in the building,” White said of the Patriots’ unwavering ability to deal with distractions. “On one of the signs when you walk in is – ignore the noise, just do your job, focus on what you have to do, be good teammates and work hard. And when you see that when you walk into the building every day, it’s kind of easy to come in here, just do your job and work hard.”

There is even the outside chance that the players could use the latest hit to the Patriots’ brand as a unifying motivation. The Patriots put forth a perfect regular season in the midst of Spygate in 2007 and went on to win the Super Bowl during the initial firestorm of Deflategate.

“That has happened at times in this locker room and other locker rooms,” tight end Ben Watson said of potentially coming together in the face of the most recent controversy. “But it seems like this locker room always has something going on up here in New England.... Maybe we’re just used to ‘em. I don’t know. But it seems like that’s what happens and honestly that’s really the best way to deal with it, because honestly nothing else matters on the outside.”

Related: How/when NFL rules on Patriots videotaping incident will be interesting