Belichick opens up in praise of Giants counterpart Coughlin

By Larry Fine

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - New England coach Bill Belichick can be terse and robotic with the media, but the three-time Super Bowl winner was unreserved Wednesday in praise of his Sunday counterpart, Giants coach Tom Coughlin.

Belichick's Patriots host the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium Sunday in a battle of 5-2 teams.

"Tom and I go back to our days with the Giants," Belichick told reporters in a conference call to New York's practice facility. "I have a lot of respect for Tom. I think he does a great job."

The last time the coaches plotted a meaningful game against one another was at Super Bowl XLII where the wild card Giants ruined New England's bid for a perfect season and a fourth Super Bowl crown under Belichick with a 17-14 upset victory.

The Patriots coach, considered one of the NFL's greatest defensive minds, reminisced about the start of their friendship more than 20 years ago.

"Tom and I had a good relationship there where we worked against each other every day in one-on-ones, seven-on-sevens, passing drills, things like that.

"He talked a lot about how receivers would attack different coverages or different techniques and vice versa. I talked to him about the receivers. I really learned a lot those years working with Tom as a defensive backfield coach.

"It definitely helped me understand some things from an offensive perspective that he was able to help me with."

The two coaches kept in touch over the years.

"I think he works hard, he's a tough hard-working guy that puts a lot of time in," said Belichick. "I know his teams are well prepared. I know he's very thorough and demands a lot from his players, from his team, and I have a lot of respect for that. We try to do the same thing.

"I always had a good relationship with Tom and his family and it all started in New York. We've gone our separate ways, but we always stayed in touch and I have always admired what Tom has done, whether it was at BC or Jacksonville or with the Giants.

"He's a good football coach, a good person, a good man and he treats people fairly and he's honest. He's tough. I respect all those things."

(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)