Hank Poteat: 'Tell Bill I said thanks'

Something a bit different to pass along today.

In the process of putting together the story of how Bill Belichick showed Patriots players the 2009 game between the Browns and Lions as part of moving past this past Monday night's loss, an attempt was made to reach out to defensive back Hank Poteat. The hope was that Poteat, the defender penalized for interference in the end zone of that Browns-Lions game to give the Lions one final play to win it, would add flavor and a personal touch with his recollections.

Poteat was nice enough to call back, but we never connected until Thursday morning after the story was written.

We talked about it anyway and Poteat reflected on how it was a "situational" play and something he had specifically practiced while playing for the Patriots (2004-2006) under Bill Belichick and later the Jets (2006-2008) and Browns (2009) under former Belichick assistant Eric Mangini. The situation he remembers was that when the quarterback scrambles out of the pocket, as Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford did on that play, he was coached that a receiver could be pushed (in this case out of bounds).

"But you just can't do it when the ball is in the air, and on that play, I had my back turned and didn't see it," he said.

The 36-year-old Poteat is now serving as a graduate assistant football coach at the University of Pittsburgh, his alma mater, and that was what we ultimately spent the most time speaking about.

"If you have a chance, tell Bill [Belichick] I said thanks," he said. "I never really got the chance to talk to him once I left there [in 2006], but he's the reason I got into coaching. Before I got to him, I was just an athlete. But he challenges you to understand the game."

Poteat then reflected on how Belichick would quiz players on personnel, and if the right answers weren't given, "he would call you out." By the time the game rolled around, Poteat said, "You were always confident going into games with his plan."

Poteat had entered the NFL as a third-round draft choice of the Steelers in 2000. He played three seasons in Pittsburgh before his career hit a crossroads. He played in one game with the Buccaneers in 2003 before being released in November of that year. He hooked on with Carolina for the 2004 preseason but was released after two games and was out all year until the Patriots signed him in the playoffs when Ty Law was placed on injured reserve.

We all remember that story.