NFL Notebook: Bill Belichick doesn’t want to make excuses – except about the roster he controls

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(Adam Richins for BSJ)

We all knew this season was going to be a challenge for the Patriots because of a variety of reasons, with the top being Tom Brady's departure at quarterback after 20 years.

The opt-outs certainly didn't help things, especially with Donta Hightower — the best (only?) playmaker — in the front seven sitting out the season. Same with Covid-19 wiping out a lot of practices that the team, especially the new QBs, could use.

Not on the list? The team's salary-cap situation. That they had no money to spend this offseason until the opt-outs kicked in was of their own doing. That's why it was stunning to see Bill Belichick use it as perhaps the biggest excuse for the team's slow start this season in an interview with old buddy Charlie Weis on Sirius NFL Radio (thanks to Mike Reiss for highlighting the interview).

Weis said he noticed the Patriots were playing "a whole bunch of young guys" and asked if that's because they like them, or because of circumstances (i.e. the pandemic)? Belichick's answer:

"You're right, Charlie," Belichick said. "We're playing more young players than we've played in the past (for a) combination of reasons. We were pretty heavily invested in our team in the past few years. From a salary-cap standpoint, we didn't have much flexibility at all. I think that was obvious on the Cam Newton contract.

"Then we had some opt-outs, so we lost some players there that would normally have been giving us significant amount of playing time. And then like every year, a couple guys are banged up and we've missed some guys here and there in certain games. I think when you combine it all together, there is opportunity there; some of that opportunity has gone to younger players.

"This is kind of the year that we've taken to, I would say, adjust our cap from the spending that we've had in accumulation of prior years. We just haven't been able to have the kind of depth on our roster that we've had in some other years. That's provided more opportunity for younger players. So it's a combination of all the reasons."

There are so many things wrong with all of this — starting with the premise of the question and Belichick agreeing with it — that I don't even know where to start.

We'll go with this: This reeks of Belichick — Mr. Do Your Job — starting to create his own narrative about where this team is, the same guy who said this on Oct. 6:

"We never make excuses. We don't make excuses about anything. Period. That's not what we do. We don't make excuses."

This whole exercise with Weis was an episode of excuse-making, the old "The dog ate my salary cap" excuse.

Let's start with the playing time for young players thing. Where? Who? Outside of Michael Onwenu and Justin Herron — and the Patriots could have played Hjalte Frodholdt (another failed draft choice?) or Korey Cunningham, and there are always injuries on every offensive line — I don't know who they're talking about.

No offensive rookie has played more than Devin Asiasi's 81 snaps. On defense, the youngest player to lay has been Kyle Dugger at 113 snaps.

None of those numbers are out of the ordinary.

And then there's the biggest whopper Belichick told during the course of the interview, and it left those in and around the team stunned for words: