It’s one thing to disagree with your superior. It’s quite another to challenge that superior openly.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, that’s what happened with New England Patriots rookie cornerback Jack Jones, who reportedly “talked back” to head coach Bill Belichick about being late to injury rehab sessions, prompting Belichick to address Jones’ behavior in a team meeting.
Breer’s report was eye-opening to many — including one of Belichick’s most well-respected former players, who views Jones’ actions as a sign of the times.
“These guys don’t respect the game and don’t respect coaches the way we used to,” ex-Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork told host Trenni Casey on NBC Sports’ “Early Edition” on Wednesday night.
“I’ve never seen anybody talk back to Bill. As a leader and as a captain, of course we’ll have conversations about things that we might not like, but that’s behind closed doors, and it’s not us challenging Bill. It was us trying to get a better understanding of what’s going on. But as far as talking back to a coach — no, you don’t do that.”
Wilfork, who won two Super Bowls over 11 seasons in New England, was widely regarded as an elite player on the field and a strong leader off it. But the former Patriots captain believes the locker room dynamics he remembers from his playing days have changed with this current generation.
“This new era of football, these kids feel entitled,” Wilfork said. “It started in college. You’ve got all this mess going on in college — you’re taken care of as a college player, and then you get to the league, and now all of a sudden you want the same treatment.
“But you have to realize, the shield, it ain’t college. You have to prove yourself at this level.”
Jones appeared to be on his way to proving himself early in the season when he recorded interceptions in back-to-back games and emerged as one of the team’s top cornerbacks. A foot injury sidelined him in Weeks 15 and 16, however, and the Patriots suspended him for their final two games.
Belichick said he plans to have both Jones and suspended punter Jake Bailey in the fold next season, so there’s plenty of time for Jones to change his attitude. But the Patriots may lose two veteran leaders this offseason in Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater. So to Wilfork’s larger point, the team may need new voices to step up and prevent any sort of divide between the locker room and the coaching staff.
Check out the video below to hear more from Wilfork on NBC Sports Boston.
This content was originally published here.