FOXBOROUGH — New Patriots defensive back Jalen Mills couldn’t be a bigger fan of his new coach. Since signing a four-year, $24 million contract in March, Mills every so often reminds himself that he’s playing for Bill Belichick.
“Even when we were in a walk-through two or three days ago, I was talking to one of the young guys, and I was like, ‘That’s Bill Belichick right there. That’s the greatest coach ever, man,’ ” Mills said after practice Monday. “Anything that he says, just listen to him. Because when he’s talking, when he’s coaching, it’s free game. He’s giving knowledge.
“It may just be him doing his job, but the things that he says, you have to really pay attention to it, because he’s really giving you the game.”
This training camp isn’t the first time Mills has expressed his admiration for Belichick. Through each stage of the offseason, he has remained slightly wonderstruck.
The pair first met in the team cafeteria shortly after Mills signed. Mills was on his way out when he heard someone say, “Hey Jalen.” He turned around and saw Belichick.
“He’s just talking to me, telling me, ‘Happy to have you. Glad for you to be here,’ ” Mills recalled back in March. “I literally turned my back to him and screamed out loud, ‘This is Coach Belichick. This is — excuse my language — but I’m like, ‘This is [expletive] Coach Belichick.’
“Like, I screamed it loud. And then I turned back around, and he was still monotone, regular, just having a casual conversation.”
A few months later, once the team began its offseason program in May, Mills had another memorable moment during a walk-through. The defense was reviewing certain calls and techniques, with Belichick standing next to Mills. Once Belichick started coaching Mills individually, the awe set in again.
“I was like, ‘This dude, like, Coach Bill is coaching me,’ ” Mills said. “It’s crazy to me. But I think that’s a great feeling, though. That’s me wanting to give him everything that I have. At the end of the day, he didn’t have to do that. That’s his job, but he’s a head coach. That’s what he has assistants for. I definitely appreciate it.”
Mills joins a loaded secondary with Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Devin McCourty, Jonathan Jones, and Adrian Phillips. His role has yet to be officially defined, as the 27-year-old Super Bowl LII champion has experience in multiple spots.
Belichick noted during minicamp how that versatility can benefit Mills.
“Just gives him a better conceptual understanding of what we’re doing,” Belichick said. “When you play multiple spots, it helps you to learn and understand not only what you’re doing, what the guy beside you is doing or the guy around you is doing and how you can help him or how you guys can work together on certain problems that are created by the other side of the ball.”
No matter where he’s slotted, Mills will eagerly soak up whatever Belichick has to tell him.
“When he’s out here in the walk-throughs and he’s talking, I’m quiet,” he said. “I’m trying to listen to everything he says because I know he’s going to help whoever he’s coaching.”
No word on Gilmore
Asked for an update on when Gilmore might return to the field, Belichick said the team is taking things “day by day” … Belichick once again did not want to discuss the trade request issued by wide receiver N’Keal Harry’s agent this offseason. But he did say the two discussed the matter and had “a good conversation.” Added Belichick, “We have a good relationship.”
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.