Apr.10 - SportLand: It hasn't been the only time New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said it over the last 18 years, but it's the one that stands out most.
"I know we demand a lot, this isn't an easy place to play, and I'm not an easy guy to play for," Belichick said following the team's 38-20 road win over the Philadelphia Eagles. "But they have tried to respond and I give them a lot of credit for that."
With reports of contention between Belichick and Rob Gronkowski surfacing, I found myself thinking back to that day at Lincoln Financial Field over the last few days. Belichick has always been tough on the players, as stories of what unfolds in his team meetings and film sessions over the years have highlighted.
For those players looking to have their egos stroked, New England hasn't been a good destination since Belichick's arrival in 2000, with Belichick essentially saying as much that day in Philadelphia.
Belichick was under the weather, and another reason that postgame news conference stood out to me was because his voice was scratchy, he looked exhausted, he elected to sit instead of stand, and the edge he often exhibits in those situations was gone.
The Patriots had beaten the Kansas City Chiefs at home on the prior Monday night, which meant they had one fewer day to prepare leading up to the road game against the Eagles. It was also Thanksgiving that week, which created another disruption to the regular routine.
Then the injury-ravaged Patriots fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter before roaring back to blow out the Eagles in a game where Julian Edelman played some cornerback.
All those factors combined led a more-reflective-than-the-norm Belichick to acknowledge his players and assistant coaches deserved credit for fighting through adversity.