HOUSTON – Behind a large partition, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were answering questions, their disembodied voices sounding faint and distorted.
Martellus Bennett, the first player other than Brady to arrive, pulled back a curtain and squealed “To-om!’’ like a groupie, then made his way to the middle of the main conference room of the New England Patriots’ hotel in Houston.
Bennett arrived at a table bearing two nameplates: His and Michael Floyd’s.
Bennett found a dozen people waiting for him, four behind cameras. He wore gold chains and a large smile. He talked about Chance The Rapper and his favorite restaurants. He told jokes as if preparing for his next career, and he was in the middle of a punch line when Floyd sat down in the only empty seat at the table.
Floyd is trying to become the third alum of Cretin-Derham Hall High to win a Super Bowl in the last five seasons, along with Ravens center Matt Birk and Broncos tackle Ryan Harris. Floyd plays receiver for the Patriots and — who knows? — could become one of the uncelebrated players who makes a big play in the big game, could become a footnote in the history of the Patriots’ sporadic dynasty.
But there were reasons Bennett commanded so much attention and Floyd did not and those reasons did not all have to do with gregariousness.
In 2013, Floyd’s career took a leap forward. He caught 65 passes for 1,041 yards in his second season with the Arizona Cardinals. With fellow Twin Cities native Larry Fitzgerald supposedly nearing retirement and the Cardinals seemingly on the rise, stardom seemed a possibility.
Fitzgerald didn’t fade but Floyd did. Two mediocre seasons led to 2016, when he caught just 33 passes for 446 yards in the first 13 games.
On Dec. 11, Floyd managed two catches for 18 yards in a loss to the Dolphins. On Dec. 12, he was found intoxicated and asleep at the wheel of his car at a stoplight in Scottsdale.
The Cardinals released him. The Patriots signed him, hoping to find another Bill Belichick scrap-heap special. In his first game as a Patriot, he caught one pass for 6 yards. In his second, the regular-season finale, he caught three for 36 yards and an impressive touchdown.
Would Floyd become the latest player to make Belichick look smarter than the rest of the NFL?
That hasn’t happened yet. Floyd has looked unable to run precise routes and has dropped passes. He caught one pass for 9 yards in a playoff victory over Houston, then was made inactive for the AFC title game against Pittsburgh.
There is no guarantee he’ll play Sunday or revive his career.
“It’s been great here since Day 1,’’ he said, smiling. “These guys brought me in and were very welcoming, especially in the wide receiver room. They help me tremendously every day.
“I think it’s difficult for anyone coming in as late as I did, but those guys have been very helpful and I appreciate that from them.’’
After the arrest, Floyd’s blood-alcohol level was found to be .217. The state of Arizona calls that level of intoxication “super-extreme.’’ He faces six charges and could go to jail.
The Vikings could use a deep threat. Floyd might fit their needs if they, like the Patriots, are willing to take a chance on a misguided and devalued talent.
Speaking of his arrest and not the Vikings, Floyd said, “Obviously with things like that you don’t want it to happen but unfortunately it did and I haven’t looked back at it yet. I’m looking forward, staying positive and making a smooth transition over here and trying to be productive in any way I can.’’
He said he stays in touch with Fitzgerald and Harris, with whom he shares a trainer.
“Ryan and I have been close since we were young,’’ Floyd said.
Floyd heard a laugh and turned toward Bennett, who was mugging for the cameras. The crowd around him had grown to 16. Floyd smiled and leaned back, now just a face in the crowd.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org