FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick is almost always complimentary of opposing players. Though he never played in the NFL, Belichick has been coaching in the league long enough that he certainly knows what it takes to be a contributor at this level, and he knows what it takes to be elite.
But there are a rare few players whom Belichick holds in special regard. Before his failed stint as a Patriot, receiver Chad Johnson was one of those players. And safety Ed Reed, the longtime Baltimore Raven, is one of the others.
So great is Belichick’s admiration for Reed that quarterback Tom Brady once joked that he believed the coach wanted to kidnap Reed and make him his son, “Ed Belichick.”
Outside of coaching Reed in a couple of Pro Bowls, however, Belichick never has gotten the chance to have Reed on his team.
Has the prime opportunity arrived?
On Tuesday, the Houston Texans, who signed Reed to a three-year, $15 million contract in the offseason, released the 35-year-old. Though he recently had been surpassed on the depth chart by Shiloh Keo, Reed also was critical of the Texans’ coaching staff, saying Monday the team was “outplayed and outcoached” in its loss to Arizona a day earlier.
As soon as news broke that Reed would be cut, speculation began as to where he might end up: Colts head coach Chuck Pagano coached Reed with the Ravens and at the University of Miami, and Jets head coach Rex Ryan also coached Reed in Baltimore.
Then, of course, there is Belichick and the Patriots.
By NFL rule, any player, regardless of experience, released after the trade deadline, must hit the waiver wire, meaning all 31 teams can put in a claim. But priority is given in reverse order of record, and at 7-2, the Patriots are near the back of the pack, so almost every other team would have to take a pass.
Then there’s the money. While Reed has about $410,000 in base salary remaining for this season, he’s also due a $62,500 per-game roster bonus, which amounts to another $437,500 for the seven games left.
And perhaps the biggest concern is, can he still play?
During his news conference Tuesday, Brady was asked about Carolina linebacker and former Boston College standout Luke Kuechly, and brought up Reed unprompted during his answer, saying, “There are guys you play against, like Ed Reed, who are great players, Ray Lewis, Zach Thomas . . . that have just a knack for the ball and [Kuechly] has a great knack for the football.”
Since he brought up Reed, Brady was asked if now that the safety was hitting the market whether he’d lobby Belichick to try to acquire him.
“Those things are so far out of my control,” Brady said, smiling. “I have a lot of other things to worry about. Coach always makes those decisions.”
The New England offense exploded for 610 total yards against the Steelers, as the unit converted a season-high 58.3 percent (7 of 12) of its third-down attempts and scored five touchdowns on eight red-zone trips.
Asked if there were things the Patriots did in that win that they can build on going into Monday night’s game with the Panthers, Brady said this week and this opponent pose a new set of challenges.
“It’s a different week for us. It’s a different team, matchup — everything is different,” he said. “[The Panthers] challenge you in different ways, different than probably any team we’ve faced all year.”
And while they showed improvement in a few areas against Pittsburgh, Brady insisted New England has to be better across the board facing a Carolina defense that is allowing fewer than 13 points per game.
“We struggled at times, different reasons and different things: third down, red area, things like that. We’re trying to make improvements in all those areas,” Brady said. “This isn’t a game where you can really not be good in those areas. You can’t turn it over, you can’t have negative plays. They lead the league in time of possession, second in scoring defense.
“There are no shortcuts – it’s just us going out there and executing the plays that are there. There’s really great execution that we need to have.”
Although this will be his 18th appearance on “Monday Night Football” — and he boasts a 13-4 record in those games — Brady said there’s still an allure to being on the NFL’s longtime TV program.
“No question” it’s still exciting, he said. “It’s fun. Now there’s Thursday night football and there’s Saturday night football, but ‘Monday Night Football’ is always pretty cool, especially when you play a really good team. It’s a fun night.”
Williams being sued
The Baltimore Sun reported Tuesday that receiver LaQuan Williams, signed by the Patriots to a two-year deal Nov. 5 after being with the Ravens, is being sued in District of Columbia Superior Court from events stemming from an altercation outside a strip club in June.
Williams is accused of assault and battery; the suit, filed by two security guards at the club, seeks $1 million in compensatory damages from the receiver. Williams does not face criminal charges in the case.
Williams was signed primarily as a special-teamer.
Asked how he thinks he can help the Patriots, Williams said, “The biggest thing off the top is going to be special teams, just come out and make as many plays as I can on special teams.”
With Baltimore, special teams “was my thing, just going out there and beating the guy that was in front of me. It’s just a one-on-one battle; it comes down to will,” Williams said.
Undrafted out of Maryland in 2011, he has four career receptions, all coming his rookie season.
Back to practice
The Patriots returned to the practice field Tuesday for the first time in a week, with players in shells and sweats. Safety Steve Gregory (thumb) was the only player not spotted during the media availability. The team did not have to submit an injury report, and with no practice on Wednesday, it will not be required to submit one until Thursday . . . The NFL announced that the Patriots-Texans game in Week 13 has been moved to a 1 p.m. start from its original 4:25 p.m. kickoff. The AFC West showdown between the Broncos and Chiefs, in Kansas City, has been flexed to a 4:25 p.m. start. Both games will remain on CBS . . . A video posted on TMZ.com appears to show tight end Rob Gronkowski mocking an Asian fan at a public event.