WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Bill Belichick has turned the New England Patriots‘ trip to The Greenbrier resort for joint practices with the Houston Texans into an educational experience for players. The son of a teacher, Belichick used part of a team meeting to explain to players the significance of the venue they are practicing at Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Coach gave us a history lesson,” relayed receiver Julian Edelman, who had missed the trip here in 2015 when the Patriots worked with the Saints. “There were 26 presidents that have stayed here. There was a bomb shelter, in fact, for the Cold War. There are 700 rooms. There is a room where Congress could go just in case there was a nuclear attack back in the Cold War era. It’s pretty cool to get to come here and see the history and the beauty of the [mountains].”
Belichick, whose appreciation for history and the military is well documented, also seemed to be in his element. Before the teams practiced Tuesday, Belichick addressed reporters and said, “It’s always great to be back at The Greenbrier. … It’s a great environment. I love it here.”
Bill Belichick kicks off Patriots-Texans joint practices with a morning news conference and says, “It’s always great to be back at The Greenbrier.” The Patriots previously practiced here in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia with the Saints.
As for the history of The Greenbrier, from 1861 to 1865 it had closed during the Civil War, with both sides occupying the grounds as either a hospital or headquarters, according to the resort’s website.
In 1914, it had opened year-round for the first time, and President Woodrow Wilson spent Easter there with his wife.
When the United States became involved in World War II in 1941, the U.S. State Department leased the hotel on the resort for seven months. Hundreds of German, Japanese and Italian diplomats and their families were relocated from Washington, D.C., until their exchange for U.S. diplomats similarly stranded overseas was completed.
The next year, the U.S. Army purchased and converted the hotel into a 2,000-bed hospital called Ashford General Hospital. A total of 24,148 soldiers were admitted and treated at the surgical and rehabilitation center over the next four years.
In 1948, The Greenbrier reopened, and while golf has been the primary sport on its grounds with the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic, football was introduced in July 2014 when the New Orleans Saints practiced here for the first time.
Thus, former Saint and first-year Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks is familiar with The Greenbrier, but he still enjoyed Belichick’s teachings.
“I think it’s great, let alone going somewhere but learning about it, especially with the things that The Greenbrier and West Virginia went through last year,” he said, referencing the 1,000-year flood that came through the state on June 23, 2016. “Being here three years in a row, I knew a lot about what he talked about, but there was some stuff I didn’t know.”