There’s all kinds of little random things around this time of year that are nice “Hey buddy!” reminders from the sports gods that football is allllllmost back. The annual panic of what it would take for the Red Sox to crash and burn and miss the playoffs. Octoberfest beers popping up next to the mountains of Corona at the store. College move-in weekends. Grabbing one last ice cream cone at that place that’s only open May-September.
My personal favorite, with all due respect to ice cream:
The annual fistfight at Patriots joint practices.
Malcolm Butler, Alshon Jeffery at center of training camp fight between Patriots, Bears https://t.co/Z4UB3D6Ku7— WEEI (@WEEI) August 15, 2016
Will be significantly hotter during today's joint practice b/w the Patriots and Redskins. In this setting, could be Fightin' Weather. #FIGHT— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 5, 2014
And who could forget Aaron Dobson vs Cary Williams in 2013? Gotta love the rookie Dobson putting those combine measurables to good work against a cornerback everyone likes even less than that yippy dog your friend’s girlfriend has.
This year, though, in addition to a few unverified rumors of the Patriots having something called “fun” in practice, there’s another big difference - for the first time since 2011, they won’t be holding joint practices with other teams.
According to Belichick, all that time not spent practicing and getting into fights with another squad has it’s advantages - even though Bill’s been a vocal fan of joint practices in the past, this year there’s other fish to fry.
For one, head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday the lack of joint practices has allowed him and his coaching staff to take a more deliberate, methodical approach to installing plays and schemes. The tempo at practice also has been noticeably slower this year.
“When you’re going up against a team yesterday and today, which we would have done last year, and then we would have to put a lot of things in ahead of that,” Belichick explained. “It would change the installation schedule and the pattern and so forth. Not saying one is good or bad — they’re just different.
“Yeah, we’re absolutely on a different pace, 100 percent. And there are some advantages to that, and there are certainly some advantages to working against a different opponent. So we’ll take the opportunities we have and try to make the most of it. But, yeah, 100 percent, that’s the case.”
To whatever extent you believe the general FOOTBAW GUY analysis that fewer and fewer kids coming out of college these days are really prepared for the pro game, this approach makes a ton of sense. Especially with at least half a dozen rookies and newbies like LT Trent Brown and DE Adrian Clayborn this year that are more than likely expected to play significant roles, the coaching staff only has so many practices to teach these guys a brand new system, new terminology, new wrinkles on old concepts, or, if you’re Dante Scarnecchia, occasionally having to un-teach two years worth of “Yeah....that’s not how you do it”.
And hey, after last year’s defense spent the first half of the season looking like they were playing dizzy bat instead of zone coverage, let’s just go ahead and throw it out there that knowing where you’re supposed to be at all times is, um, kind of important for winning football games. Can’t be looking like Ryan Gosling in Remember the Titans out there, kids.