FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick made it abundantly clear where he plans on spending his 43d year coaching in the NFL — and it’s the same place he’s been the last 18 years: patrolling the Patriots sideline.
Belichick answered “absolutely” when asked Monday morning if it was his intention to coach the Patriots next season.
The question arose after a pair of recent reports suggested that this could be Belichick’s final season with the Patriots. The first was an ESPN report detailing divisiveness among Belichick, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and quarterback Tom Brady. The second was a New York Daily News story suggesting that Belichick was eyeing a return to the Big Apple to coach the Giants.
Asked if there was any truth to the Daily News report, Belichick said, “Right now, my interest is trying to do the best I can for our football team to get ready for Saturday night against Tennessee. That’s where my total focus is.’’
That’s when he was asked if he intends to remain with the Patriots and he said, “Absolutely.”
Belichick echoed the words of Kraft, who told MMQB over the weekend that he “absolutely” believes Belichick will return to coach the Patriots in 2018.
This was the first time Belichick spoke with the media since the ESPN article was published Friday. The piece said Belichick was given a mandate by Kraft to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
The coach was asked if that was indeed the case.
“I haven’t read the article,’’ said Belichick, who sent Garoppolo to the 49ers at the trade deadline at the end of October for a second-round pick. “I’ve already commented at length about that situation. Nothing has happened since then, so I don’t have anything to add to it.’’
Later, during an afternoon appearance on WEEI radio, Belichick shed light on his relationship with his owner and quarterback.
“Great, great,’’ he said. “Eighteen years with Tom and 22 with Robert. It’s been great. I appreciate everything that Robert has done for me, the opportunities he’s given me and the support.
“I’ve been lucky to have Tom as the quarterback for those 18 years, playing for 17. He’s a great player to coach and he’s done a lot for this team. He’s been a huge help for me personally.’’
The coach also clarified his relationship with Alex Guerrero, Brady’s personal trainer and business partner at TB12. The Globe reported last month that Belichick had stripped Guerrero of his sideline privileges and his clearance to fly on the team plane.
“I have a great relationship with both Robert and Tom, and I would throw in there, since it was part of the article, I feel like I have a good relationship with Alex, too,’’ he said.
“I think we’re talking about a lot of inaccuracies here. I respect Alex and I think I have a good professional relationship with him. I can’t speak for him but I think he would say the same thing.
“We have relationships with a lot of people in the medical area. Lots of consultants. Lots of people that are specialists. Lots of people that do many different things. We try and have working relationships with multiple individuals, multiple groups in multiple areas, and we try and structure those as best we can.’’
The ESPN report said Belichick was “furious and demoralized” by the mandate and subsequent trade of Garoppolo, and the coach was asked Monday if that was an accurate description.
“Well, first of all, I don’t really know what you’re talking about,’’ he said. “I haven’t read the article, so I don’t know what that refers to.
“We’ve been through this before and I know you want to report on things that are inaccurate and unattributable and I’m not really interested in responding to all of this random and, I would say in a lot of cases, baseless comments.’’
The headline on the ESPN story read: “For Kraft, Brady and Belichick, is this the beginning of the end?”
In response to the article, the three issued a joint statement critical of reports that contained “theories that are unsubstantiated, highly exaggerated or flat out inaccurate.”
The statement read, in part: “For the past 18 years, the three of us have enjoyed a very good and productive working relationship. . . . The three of us share a common goal. We look forward to the enormous challenge of competing in the postseason and the opportunity to work together in the future, just as we have for the past 18 years. It is unfortunate that there is even a need for us to respond to these fallacies. As our actions have shown, we stand united.’’
The Patriots’ postseason run begins with a home divisional round game against Tennessee Saturday night, and the coach was asked if his club uses negative media attention as a rallying point.
“What we’re going to do is utilize the time that we have to structure, practice, and prepare as efficiently as we can to be ready to go on Saturday night against the Titans,’’ he said. “That’s what we’re going to do.
“I know everybody in this organization is committed to that. We’ve worked all year to put ourselves in this position.
“We know what our challenge is. We know it’s a big one and we’re going to do our best to meet it.’’
Players reported to Gillette Stadium Monday for meetings, and safety Patrick Chung made no attempt to hide his feelings after being informed that Belichick had no plans to go anywhere.
“I’m juiced,’’ he said with a big smile. “Keep coming back, man. When he’s done, I’ll be done, too.”