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Friends to the end? Parcells, Belichick share secrets

IRVING, Texas -- Two longtime football coaches were talking
this summer about the way things used to be, back when they worked
together and really pushed their players.

"I have talked to him say four, five times in the last month. We just talk. It doesn't take long to get to the
point. One of us has something to ask we just go right to it. I
called the other day and I called him back the next morning to ask
him another 30-second question about something that he was doing."
-- Bill Parcells

They lamented how much more coddling is done these days,
especially in training camp. So they decided to do something about
it. One said he was going back to the old way; the other said he'd
do the same.

That might not seem like a remarkable tale, except that the
conversation was between Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick.

And it was one of what's becoming a routine series of calls
between them.

"Hey, he's a guy I think a lot of," Parcells said Tuesday.
"It's a good sounding board, that's all. I'm probably using him
right now more than he's using me."

The two Bills haven't talked about each other much since
Belichick left Parcells and the New York Jets behind six years ago,
dissolving a succession plan that was put in writing, ruining what
many thought was more than a working relationship.

Belichick has gone on to win three Super Bowls, one more than
Parcells. If that alone didn't rankle the Big Tuna, then talk of
Belichick winning without Parcells but Parcells never winning
without Belichick probably did.

Time apparently heals everything, as might the fact that
Parcells' son-in-law, Scott Pioli, is the vice president of player
personnel for the New England Patriots. Whatever the reason, the
lines of communication are open and the coaches who've combined to
win 25 percent of the Super Bowls over the last two decades may
even have each other on speed dial.

"I have talked to him say four, five times in the last month,"
Parcells said. "We just talk. It doesn't take long to get to the
point. One of us has something to ask we just go right to it. I
called the other day and I called him back the next morning to ask
him another 30-second question about something that he was doing."

Parcells said he's bouncing off Belichick things like how many
players at each position should make the 53-man roster.

"He knows what my problems are," Parcells said. "He knows the
whole numbers on our defense with scheme and what do we have to
keep here ... offenses are similar, too. It's someone to talk to
about, 'What are you going to do here?' and 'What are you thinking
about there?"'

One of their conversations earlier this summer was about
practices. It was actually a question about Parcells' practice
routine this preseason that led to his disclosure of his renewed
ties to Belichick. Belichick already had spoken Tuesday and isn't
scheduled to talk to reporters again until after a game Thursday
night.

"I sat down with Bill Belichick this summer and we started
talking about all this stuff we used to do," Parcells said. "He
says, 'I used to get mad at you at the way you used to make us do
this. Now I'm going to go do it.' He reminded me of a couple of
things that we used to do."

Parcells said that over the years, coaches have become so
concerned about players not getting injured in preseason that
they've forgotten the No. 1 objective: have players ready for the
season.

"Sometimes," he said, "you forget that you have to coach them
hard."

The reminder seems to be working. Dallas is 3-0 for the first
time since 1985 and New England is 2-1. The Cowboys have given up
the fewest points in the NFL preseason, while the Patriots have
scored the second-most points and allowed the third fewest.

Sure, it's only the preseason, but it's a good indication their
strategy is working -- like in their days together with the New York
Giants, Patriots and Jets.

"I've always run a pretty hard camp," Parcells said. "But I'd
say this year's camp was harder."

It's still going on, too. The Cowboys left California on Aug.
20, yet Parcells has retained a training-camp approach. For
instance, there were two practices Tuesday.

"It's definitely the most challenging camp I've been a part
of," said right guard Marco Rivera, in his second season in Dallas
and 11th in the NFL. "Coach keeps saying to us we're
battle-hardened because of this camp. It's true. If we do the work
here, the games are fun."

Parcells also is planning to shake up his schedule during the
season. Players on the fringe of the roster will get less work on
Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays -- which means more snaps for
veterans.

That's actually part of a bigger change that involves scrapping
the 21st century approach of "more shorter segments, quicker work,
and then on to something else," rotating the emphasis between the
offense and defense.

"I'm going back to where you're going to have to stick it
out," Parcells said. "I just think that helps the mental
toughness of your team. That's what Bill and I really were talking
about. He told me that's what he was going to do. He asked me what
I've been doing and I told him, 'I'm doing the same thing as
you."'