It happens rapid-fire, and sometimes unexpectedly.
Players walking through the Patriots facility in Foxborough could be targets at any time.
When their head coach, Bill Belichick, asks them a strategy or preparation question, even as they pass each other in the hallway, the player better know the correct answer.
“I would hate to walk by him in a hallway on a Thursday if I was unprepared,” Heath Evans, a former Patriots fullback who is now an analyst for the NFL Network, told the Wall Street Journal in a story published Tuesday. “He’s stopping and asking me about a player on special teams. ‘Can he wiggle? Who did he match up against last week on kickoffs and how did he win that matchup?’ There’s no limit to the knowledge Bill expects you to have on an opponent and the craziest part is he has the answers to all of it.”
According to the report, Belichick’s pop quizzes are a way to keep his players mentally sharp when studying an upcoming opponent. They have caused awkward silences in meetings when an answer escapes a player.
“It’s a chill silence for a few seconds. Bone chilling, at that,” said cornerback Kyle Arrington in the piece. “If he doesn’t move on from there, and he’s just looking at you, oh yeah, it’s pretty awkward.”
The quizzes have pitted veterans against rookies as a way to fact-check teammates, which sometimes provides breaks of laughter in tense study sessions. But a wrong answer could also land a player in an early morning meeting with the professor himself.
“Sometimes he’ll hit you with a couple real tough questions. But you’ve got to know that. And it’s not him just asking questions — it’s him trying to depend on us, us showing that we know what’s going on,” safety Patrick Chung told the Wall Street Journal.
“It keeps our minds going, it’s a daily thing. . . . if you can anticipate certain things, or you know the game plan inside out, it makes it a lot easier to play fast. If you’re thinking about stuff, it’s impossible to play fast.”