After the Patriots lost to the Giants in Week 12, all that could be talked about was their continued ascent to the top of the 2024 NFL draft. Beating New York moved them up another spot, inching closer to the highly desired first-overall pick, something the Patriots haven't had in over 30 years.
But that conversation only remained the hottest topic until NFL Films released footage from their most recent matchup, which ordinarily wouldn't be that big of a deal. However, Jabrill Peppers was caught in a sticky situation, as a clip of him embracing Saquan Barkley, stating, "You lucky we a**," went viral.
Although nearly everyone who has watched a single Patriots game this year would agree, it's never ideal to have a player on your team making jokes about how bad they are, especially in a clip seen by the masses.
When asked about the moment once the team returned for practice a few days later, Peppers didn't shy away from owning what he said, apologizing to everyone from his coaches to his teammates, and also acknowledging the shady decision by the NFL to release the footage despite the infinite amount of unmentionable things that are always said during and after a game.
It was more than an appropriate response from a newly established leader of the defense.
"First of all, I just want to apologize to my teammates and to my coaches for even having to answer questions about that. We’ve got more important things to worry about than me being caught on a hot mic. But at the end of the day, we’re 2-9 and we’ve got a top-five pick in the draft that didn’t come via trade.
...I didn’t even give Saquon a chance to tell me. I don’t think it’s right that they put that out because a lot of things that’s said on that football field, and I know there’s multiple people mic’d up game in and game out that they’re gonna put out, I was kind of taken aback by it. But at the end of the day, I’ll own that and I’ll own everything I say. I’m not running from it."
Because this was a unique situation, how Bill Belichick would react upon either seeing the clip himself or being told about it was unclear. The assumption was it wouldn't be too pleasant, even if what Peppers said wasn't all that bad.
The head coach was finally asked about the hot mic moment during his weekly appearance on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" on Monday and did everything but condemn Peppers for his comments.
"I think you have to talk to Jabrill about that. I think he made some comments on it. There’s things that get said in frustrating moments. We’ve all had that. Jabrill works hard. He’s a hard-working kid. He’s out there every day and he works hard to communicate well, be a good teammate, compete and help his team. I think everybody respects that. I certainly do."
It wasn't necessarily a surprising response, as history has shown us that Belichick isn't one to throw a player under the bus. But it was a more detailed response than he would usually give, filled with complimentary words about Peppers, whom he has consistently praised over the past two years.
Some felt it was Belichick's way of saying without directly saying that what he said was right: the Patriots are bad. That may be a bit of a stretch, but anything is possible.