Bill Belichick, over the years, has had big praise for a handful of Cardinals. He liked Adrian Wilson, bringing Wilson in to the Patriots at the end of Dub's career. He definitely loved Larry Fitzgerald, so much so that, for a few years there, the annual offseason rumor was that Fitz could go to/be traded to the Patriots.
With the Patriots set to play the Cardinals Monday night, the Patriots coach again had heavy praise for one of the Cards -- this time, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
"He's got tremendous ball skills, he catches everything, great hands," Belichick told New England reporters. "He's never covered — even if he's covered, there's a place the ball can be that he can get it, still make the catch. Great coordination on the sidelines, and he doesn't really look it but he's a strong kid. You see him break tackles, he's strong creating separation, yards after contact, extra yards around the goal line or the extra yard for a first down. He's a smart football player, very savvy. His ball skills are at the very elite level with guys I've seen in this league.
"He's up there with whoever the top guys are. Cris Carters of the world and guys like that. He's every bit as good as anybody I've ever coached against."
Hopkins was asked about how much he looks forward to battling the Patriots and Belichick.
"My record is one-and-something against him?" Hopkins said. "So obviously I don't really enjoy those matchups too much. But he does a great job of scheming (against) guys like myself. You can be a No.1 receiver and Belichick is going to do a great job of limiting you to whatever you did the week before.
"It's fun. You have to be very precise playing against the Patriots and that defense. You have to make every play count."
Hopkins' record, in fact, is 1-7 against the Patriots, including one playoff loss when he was in Houston (and an 0-1 record after the Cardinals lost to the Patriots in New England in 2020.) Hopkins said the Patriots have been successful playing him a certain way ("I'll keep that to myself") and he was held to five catches for 55 yards in the 2020 meeting.
But Belichick's praise affected Hop, to the point where he thanked the media for asking how meaningful it was.
"Very meaningful," Hopkins said. "A guy like Belichick, he's one of the most respected people in the NFL, he's a Hall of Fame coach, and for him to have that high praise about me, it's definitely mutual. I love playing against him. After every game I try to make sure I say, 'Hey, what's up' to him. I've got a lot of respect for him for sure."