"It's a tough atmosphere because there's a lot of pressure on winning," Willie says. "Everybody is held accountable."
As far as any animosity between Bill Belichick and his former superstars over the way things ended ... Willie says there's no hate there, telling us the guys still have a ton of respect for each other.
"What they did in New England together, as a duo -- as a trio," McGinest says, "will never be duplicated ever in football history again."
Willie tells us he expects Gronk and Brady to be at Patriots reunions as soon as their careers are over ... and even says ceremonial retirements in New England for both dudes are on the table.
"It's part of life," McGinest says. "I don't think there's any hate there. It's just, you know, guys moving on."