Belichick Maintains Focus at Camp
By Jon Scott, Patriots Insider
The weather at Patriots training camp started off overcast with an oppressive level of humidity. It was so hot and humid that just breathing became a chore after walking a short distance. How players would manage practice in full gear was a real concern. With a short week of practice, there's no opportunity for players to take time off due to the weather even forcing the team to move to "the bubble" when a thunderstorm threatened to cut short practice.
During his morning press conference, head coach Bill Belichick talked about the material that they [the coaches] still wanted to install. Things like goal line defense and short yardage were items the team needed to practice. He talked about how the team would try to work on those formations during the week. With the New Orleans game on Thursday night, Belichick lamented that there's not much time left to get the kinks ironed out.
"I'm not looking for flowers or anything," Belichick joked. "I'm just saying that for the team, we have a lot going on this week. It's a busy week."
For the head coach, preparation is one of the most important aspects to the game. He strives for the optimal balance between giving players the rest they need, while still maintaining the learning pace for the new players. Taking a break is not an option.
"It's a week where we need to make progress and get a lot of things done and then that is really going to continue over into next week against Green Bay with some of the same things," he said.
The Patriots play the Saints in preseason (August 18th) in Foxborough and host them again November 20th. Some of the material will remain the same; although it's entirely possible circumstances could be completely different when the teams meet the second time.
Injuries would be the most likely culprit for creating different matchups in the second meeting. There's a lot of football to be played between now and then, and as with any season, injuries happen. Just ask former Patriots corner back Ty Law. Law was a healthy contributing member of the active roster at the beginning of last season, and then October 31st, his season ended with a foot injury forcing the team to adjust to the loss of arguably its best defender.
Being prepared is Belichick's way to overcome the impact of those injuries. The team's practice schedule has built in rest periods for players in an attempt to prevent burnout or injury from excessive fatigue. Yet even with those planned breaks, it's possible that the team can overwork players at a certain position, such as the tight ends.
Last week, the Patriots managed to field just one healthy and rested tight end, Jed Weaver. The other ends on the roster; Daniel Graham, Ben Watson, Christian Fauria and Joel Jacobs were either nursing minor injuries, or just taking a breather themselves because none were dressed for practice. Weaver took all the snaps at the position, and worked one-on-one with position coach Pete Mangurian.
Belichick realizes he needs to rest players to avoid injuries or downtime from a particular unit including the tight ends. "What happens at training camp – and you pretty much can read about with any team in the league – is you have a certain number of players at a position, you go into training camp with them, and then two or three of them are out. So that takes that number [of players] and cuts it half or a third…that over stresses that group," Belichick explained. "Sometimes you can shuffle players around…and sometimes that works in your favor because it builds versatility and depth on your team."
Versatility is a key point with these Patriots. All players are expected to contribute not only on the unit they're part of but in other aspects of the game. Special teams are one area where starters are expected to contribute, maybe not the linemen, because according to Belichick they don't' run fast enough, but all the other positions.
Mike Vrabel, Dan Klecko and Rodney Harrison are all part of the special teams units. Best known for being the linebacker who caught a touchdown pass in the last two Super Bowls, Vrabel is the epitome of versatility. After spending time at the inside linebacker spot, Vrabel has continued to practice on the outside in camp these last two weeks.
It's apparent that Vrabel doesn't mind doing whatever it takes to help the team, just as Troy Brown did last season when he played defensive back to help the injury depleted secondary. That type of mentality not only helps the team, it's exactly what Belichick is looking for from his players and preaching to the new guys.
As the regular season approaches Belichick continues to prepare the Patriots for the challenges the team will face in the regular season. Armed with a proven plan and a talented and competitive new group of young players, its obvious Belichick's focus during camp will pay dividends down the road.
Belichick Maintains Focus at Camp
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