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Bill Belichick was raised in Annapolis, Md., and although he grew up rooting for the Baltimore Colts, he said he always had respect for the Washington Redskins' franchise.
That respect grew even more as Belichick began rising through the coaching ranks in the NFL, beginning with the Colts, then becoming rivals as a coach with the New York Giants, and now in his current role as head coach of the New England Patriots.
Top photos from the Redskins & Patriots joint practice session at the Bon Secours Training Center on Monday, August 4, 2014.
Belichick recalled those Redskins connections in detail Monday prior to the Patriots' first of three scheduled joint practices with Washington at its training camp headquarters in Richmond, Va.
"Yeah, it's a lot of memories that stand out from this organization," Belichick said of the Redskins. "This organization has a lot of tradition, great history."
Colts connectionsBelichick said he grew up a Colts fan in Annapolis – which is only about 45 minutes from Baltimore – but admired the nearby Redskins, too.
"Of course growing up in Annapolis I was kind of a Colts fan, but not anti-Redskins, y'know?" Belichick said. "I had a lot of appreciation for them too, so it was good to have two NFL teams that close to us."
When he got his start in NFL coaching with the Colts as an assistant to then-head coach Ted Marchibroda in 1975, Belichick said he learned the Redskins' system quickly – seeing as Marchibroda had spent the previous three seasons as Washington's offensive coordinator.
"When Coach Marchibroda came over from the Redskins he brought the whole Redskins program with him," Belichick recalled. "One of my jobs was to white out 'Washington Redskins' (on the playbook) and type in 'Baltimore Colts' on it and then Xerox it off. It was literally the same offense and same … defense, and I remember there was a couple of pages that somehow snuck into the playbook that 'Redskins' didn't get whited out, and I heard about it on that."
Belichick remembered scrimmaging the Redskins three times that season.
"I really learned a lot about the Redskins organization through the Colts and Coach (George) Allen and his assistants and his staff," Belichick said. "I was brought up with the Colts that first year, but it was really the Redskins' program over in Baltimore."
Giants rivalryBelichick would move on to other jobs with the Detroit Lions (1976-1977) and the Denver Broncos (1978) before landing a job as special teams coach and defensive assistant with the New York Giants, where he would eventually serve as defensive coordinator from 1985-1990.
Both the Redskins and the Giants were among the cream of the crop of NFC teams throughout the 1980s, so, naturally, the two teams' bi-annual (or more) matchups developed into quite the rivalry during those times, Belichick recalled.
"Of course when I was with the Giants we had a great rivalry with the Redskins and Coach (Joe) Gibbs," Belichick said. "Played them twice a year – sometimes three times, and those were great battles that I'll never forget."
During Belichick's time as defensive coordinator, his Giants teams would post a 10-3 record against the Redskins.
"Redskins, 49ers, those were kind of the biggest games on the schedule every year," he said.
Joint practicesBelichick complimented Redskins owner Dan Snyder, President and general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Jay Gruden for their efforts to help arrange this week's joint practices with his Patriots team leading up to Thursday evening's preseason opener between the two teams at FedExField.
"Once the preseason schedule came out and we saw that we were open in Washington, Bruce and Jay and I made contact – it was kind of a three-way there – and talked about the opportunity of working against each other," Belichick said. "It seemed very workable, so we've been in communication more this week obviously than previously, but enough in the spring and in May and June to set it up, and we've dotted some I's and crossed some T's here in the last 24 to 48 hours."
Belichick said he was impressed with the Redskins' new Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
"It's a good opportunity for our coaching staff, good opportunity for our players and team and again it's a great facility here," he said. "Dan Snyder's done a great job with this beautiful facility, and again, Jay and his staff have been really accommodating."
Gruden said although he really hadn't talked much with Belichick prior to being named Redskins' head coach in January, he's always had respect for the three-time Super Bowl champion coach.
"You view him with the respect that he deserves," Gruden said. "He's won a lot of games, a lot of football games and a lot of Super Bowls, so he deserves his respect. … He's a good football coach and obviously his record speaks for itself."
Always looking for ways to improve his team, Belichick said he hopes to pick up a thing or two from Gruden, too, however.
"As a head coach of an NFL team, you don't really get many opportunities to see what other people are doing," Belichick said. "In the NFL this is one of the few opportunities you have to work with another staff, another team, and you always pick up something, because there's a lot of outstanding coaches on this team, and whether it's a good coaching point or a drill or something they do, I'm sure we'll be able to take a few things away from here."