• When you have been to this many Super Bowls, you know the avalanche of congratulatory texts is part of the deal. Belichick has his advice, but players take their own approaches on the question of whether or not to text back.
By Robert Klemko
January 31, 2019

It’s a modern measure of courtesy as good as any: When something great happens in your life and your phone blows up with well-wishers (and, in some cases, favor-seekers), do you get back to everybody? How long does it take? Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who's been around long enough to remember when players weren’t buried in their cell phones on every airport bus ride, has some advice for today's athletes on this front.

“Before the Super Bowl, [Belichick] tells everybody, ‘When we get down there, the best answer you can give everybody is no,’” says sixth-year safety Duron Harmon. “He says, ‘You don’t want to take away from why you’re here. Our main focus is to win a game. That’s the only reason we’re here. So you revert back to that word no, and they will understand if they truly love you.’”

That’s good advice for dealing with the distant relative who wants an all-expenses-paid Super Bowl vacation to Atlanta, but what about the myriad texts offering congratulations? Harmon, for instance, had 378 unread messages after the AFC championship game less than two weeks ago. He says he got back to every person within the week.

“When you have people who support you and congratulate you, I work hard to get back to them,” Harmon says. “Me getting back to them lets them know I appreciate them, and just shows them that I don’t take it for granted. It takes time, trust me. It took me like five days to get everybody back; 20-30 minutes at a time when you have downtime. It’s tough sometimes, because when you say ‘thank you,’ they respond back and that’s more texts.

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How does third-year linebacker Elandon Roberts deal with that scenario? Simple: He doesn’t text back in the first place. To get rid of that annoying unread message icon, he just opens the message and moves on without reading.

“I don’t really get back to anybody,” says Roberts, 24. “Only the people I talk to on a regular basis. If someone says they want to come to the game I just say no. I was gonna say no even if Coach didn’t say that. I ain’t payin’ for that.”

As for the well-wishers? “If I don’t hear from you til the Super Bowl...”

Most Patriots players fall somewhere between Harmon and Roberts, though it can be difficult to admit for some. Marcus Cannon begins to divulge his strategy, then stops himself: “The people that get texted back fastest—that’s gonna sound so bad. I don’t want to do that. I can’t answer that because somebody’s gonna read that and be like, ‘Oh, O.K., that’s why I didn’t get a text back.’

“I just try to turn everything off. You gotta focus. After you get all the tickets figured out, I’m done with it. You can’t worry about that type of stuff all the way up until the game. It’s too hard.”

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Like Cannon, most players on this roster have perfected their strategy over years of Super Bowl appearances. So while many Rams players are navigating this social minefield for the first time, the Patriots have tried and true methods.

“You text back the people you love first, make sure everything’s good,” says defensive end Adrian Clayborn, in his first Super Bowl as a Patriot but a member of the 2016 Falcons team that lost to New England. “Then you get to the people you haven’t talked to in 10 years.”

Defensive end Lawrence Guy doesn’t find returning texts to be a daunting task. And he’s not a fan of the copy-paste boilerplate response method employed by some. “It's not too difficult to say, “Thank you, appreciate it,’” Guy says. “I try to make it personal. I don’t like the whole copy-paste thing. Most people are on their phones half the time anyway.”

For others still sifting through their messages, there’s no sense of guilt. Most people get it. This is the Super Bowl, so you might not get a text back. “I think my phone still has 95 unread text messages," says linebacker Albert McClellan. “A lot of people understand what this game is about and that we must remain focused.”

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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