Not only has Bryant found a role in the defense, primarily as a free safety, but he also is an important member of the scout team. During Week 2, for example, he served as Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in practice.
“He’s embraced whatever role we’ve given him,” Belichick said. “As he’s a DB, he’s moved around and played every position. He’s a really instinctive player who’s done well with any opportunity he’s been given. That’s what has led to him being in the game. I was happy for him that it paid off for him.”
Cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino shared similar feelings.
“I’m definitely proud of him for making a big play when we needed it,” Pellegrino said. “Hopefully, we can have a couple more.”
Asked about Bryant’s development and rise to the 53-man roster, Patriots coach Bill Belichick noted the chances of the 22-year-old Washington product getting regular playing time is low because of the secondary’s depth. But Belichick praised Bryant for making the most of his recent in-game reps.
“We just haven’t had a lot of opportunity to play him,” Bill Belichick said. “The guys in front of him have played well in their opportunities. But, he’s learned a lot. He’s very attentive and asks a lot of good questions with Devin [McCourty] and Jason [McCourty] and Jon Jones and guys like that.
“He’s always trying to absorb little coaching points and tips and that type of thing. He has a good aptitude to apply them in the right situation and communicate it well on the field in practice and in his opportunities in the game. They’ve been limited, but they’ve carried over positively from the same thing he did in practice.”
Forcing fair catches important job
One statistic that goes under the radar, according to special teams coordinator Cam Achord, is the number of fair catches forced by the punt unit.
“If you’re able to get some guys down there and force that fair catch, that’s that hidden yardage you’re not giving up on a return,” he said.
The Patriots are tied for eighth in the NFL for number of fair catches by an opponent, with 15. The Saints lead the league with 25. The Patriots also rank seventh in opponent punt return average yards per game, with 5.69. The Saints once again lead the league, with 3.67.
Achord praised New England’s unit for its performance this season, highlighting the work of second-year punter Jake Bailey for his placement of the ball and gunners Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel, and Cody Davis for their speed and precision down the field.
Sports programs get support
With the coronavirus pandemic affecting sports at all levels, the Bill Belichick Foundation recently distributed close to half a million dollars in scholarships and grants across the country. Thirty programs received $10,000 grants, while 28 student-athletes received $5,000 stipends. Local recipients of the grant money, intended to support programs experiencing a reduction of resources as a result of the pandemic, include Boston Youth Wrestling, Boys and Girls Club of Metro South, Nantucket Ice Company, Stoughton HS, and Walpole Youth Girls Lacrosse.
Nicole Yang can be reached at email@example.com.