- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When Patriots coach Bill Belichick arrived at his Wednesday morning news conference, he looked out at the media members in attendance and said, "Happy Holidays. It's a little early but ..."
What followed was a 21-minute news conference that touched on a variety of topics -- Thanksgiving, the revamped linebacker corps, the importance of good hands for punters and more.
Some of the Thanksgiving "leftovers" from Belichick:
Dark meat or white meat? "Whatever is on the plate. I haven't turned down a lot of food in my Thanksgiving lifetime."
All the fixings? "Whatever is on there. I make sure to leave room for pumpkin pie. I don't want to fill up on everything and not be able to eat that pie."
High school football on Thanksgiving: "It's a great part of the whole holiday and the whole weekend. Yeah, it's big in this area. I grew up with that. Thanksgiving was always a big football weekend for me because our high school always had a Thanksgiving Day game with a big rival: Annapolis-Severna Park. That was a big one there. Then the Army-Navy was always the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Growing up, you just, that was like the key point in the year. I coached Detroit for a couple years and had the Thanksgiving Day game there. You could really see what a big part of the community that Thanksgiving Day game was and what it brought there. Then when I came to New England in '96, [son] Stephen played little league football. Of course growing up here, our kids played football and had those same kind of experiences on Thanksgiving -- Thanksgiving Day games and that weekend and all that. It's a part of the New England culture, life, Massachusetts. I think it's good. It's good for families. It's good for the excitement of the game. It's good for the sport. It's a good, wholesome thing. Turkey dinner, football -- it's a great holiday. You've got to love Thanksgiving. Three games now instead of two. Got the big Nantucket-Martha's Vineyard clash. That's always a monster game too."
Memories of the Annapolis/Severna Park rivalry: "You know it was pretty competitive. We got some, they got some. They got us my senior year. We got them my junior year. But it was always one of those no field goals ever. So it would be like 19 to 13. It was 50-50 on the extra points. You'd go for two. Usually a touchdown with one or two point conversions messed up in the score there somewhere. So you never had 21-14 or 28-21. There were missed extra points; there were two-point conversions. No field goals, you can forget about that. Back in the day of the straight-on kickers; defensive end or whoever you had that was your kicker and the ball would either go right through the uprights or by the pylon -- one or the other. Alright, have a good holiday, see you Friday."
Thanksgiving a work day: "We're having to work through it. Last year was a working day, we played on Thanksgiving. I mean, look, it's always a good feeling to win on Thanksgiving. That makes the turkey taste better and everything is a little bit better. But when you're not playing, you're working. That's usually been the case. We've had a lot more games after Thanksgiving than on Thanksgiving Day. It's certainly an important holiday for Americans and for our society. But at the same time, we have a job to do and part of it is a working day for us. So it's a working day, it's a family day, it's a team day but it's definitely part working day too."