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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Super Bowl LI: Bill Belichick protecting his quarterback

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, sits next

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, sits next to head coach Bill Belichick, right, before receiving the MVP trophy during a press conference on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, at George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Credit: EPA / Larry W. Smith

Bill Belichick had waited a long time to unload like this, and he clearly had his words ready for one final and unequivocal defense of his quarterback.

Less than 12 hours after Tom Brady completed a historic comeback in a 34-28 overtime win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Sunday night — five months after beginning a four-game suspension — Belichick didn’t need a direct question about Brady’s motivation to deliver a definitive stiff-arm to that popular story line.

“With all due respect, I think it’s inappropriate to suggest that in Tom’s career he’s been anything but a great teammate, a great worker and has given us every single ounce of effort, blood, sweat and tears that he has in him,” Belichick said Monday. “To insinuate that this year was somehow different, that this year he competed harder, did anything to a higher degree than he has in the past, is insulting to the tremendous effort and leadership and competitiveness that he’s shown for the 17 years that I’ve coached him.”

Just for emphasis, Belichick added some more defiance in defense of his quarterback.

“It’s been like that every year, every day, every week, every practice,” Belichick said. “I don’t care if it’s in May, August or January. Tom Brady gives us his best every time he steps on the field.”

Brady wasn’t in the room when Belichick spoke, but he no doubt heard about those words. But then again, hearing this kind of sentiment is nothing new for him, because he has displayed the same level of passion for football throughout his career. Brady not only is arguably the most talented player ever but one of the most intense and well-prepared.

Belichick is right about this: No amount of motivation from being disciplined can fuel a player to the level that Brady has reached. Anger and inspiration are only temporary emotions; it’s Brady’s diligence in practice, in the offseason, in watching every single morsel of food that goes into his mouth — and of course, his brilliance in games — that separate him from every player who came before him.

Belichick simply felt the need to reinforce that point after months of biting his tongue.

It was the perfect time to offer this kind of impassioned message, because there is nothing left for Brady to prove after finishing off a season that began with him serving a four-game suspension for his alleged role in Deflategate. He reached the pinnacle of NFL success for a record-breaking fifth time in what probably was the most difficult of his 17 seasons.

Saying that Brady was more motivated this season certainly was a trendy and understandable plot line, given his protracted court fight to have commissioner Roger Goodell’s ban permanently overturned. It seemed especially appropriate in that Brady ultimately gave up his fight not with one last moment of bravado, but with a Facebook post early last July.

Brady never directly cast aspersions at Goodell or the league. He had plenty of opportunities to rip the commissioner but remained above the fray — even after returning from suspension and proceeding to put together one of his most statistically impressive seasons at the age of 39.

He followed it up with a spectacular performance in the AFC Championship Game and a record-breaking outing in Sunday night’s comeback.

A day later, Belichick’s words resonate even more about how steadfastly he believes in his quarterback.

And how his quarterback believes in himself. Even if he doesn’t feel the need to announce it to the world.

New York Sports