April 25, 2020 / 1:19 AM / a month ago

Patriots pup an unexpected star in 'virtual' draft

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It’s a dog-eat-dog world in the NFL and no more so than Friday night, when a canine companion made an unexpected appearance in place of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the draft telecast, perhaps a hint that the second evening of the “virtual” event could have more unscripted moments in store.

FILE PHOTO: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick smiles during a victory parade after winning Super Bowl LIII, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

After trading out of the first round, Belichick was set to make his second-round pick from a relatively spare home workstation, as coaches across the league settled in for the evening under coronavirus lockdown.

But as the camera cut to the his compound, it was a friendly pooch named Nike and not the grim-faced, eight-time Super Bowl winner who appeared to be calling the shots, sitting in the coach's chair with its eyes glued to a laptop here

“Who’s taken Belichick’s chair there?” the television announcer said, as the Patriots fetched Kyle Dugger 37th overall out of Division-II Lenoir-Rhyne University.

As the draft rolled onward, the camera cut back to Belichick as he gave the dog a treat, no doubt pleased with its selection of the 24-year-old safety.

NFL experts, analysts and fans immediately seized on the moment, after a Thursday night opener that went smoothly but offered little in the way of surprises.

“I just want Bill Belichick to trade me his dog,” tweeted @bridgetbaseball.

“A Division II second-rounder shows Bill Belichick can sniff out talent anywhere,” wrote @JennyVrentas, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated.

The draft, taken indoors and onto a “virtual” format for the first time to accommodate social distancing regulations, is among the rare few live sports events remaining on the professional sports calendar, drawing record viewership on its first round Thursday.

Reporting By Amy Tennery; Editing by Kim Coghill

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