On Wednesday, the New England Patriots held their first and only practice of the week: the team — minus two absentees, safety Patrick Chung and tight end Benjamin Watson — gathered on the fields behind Gillette Stadium for a full-pads session before heading off into the bye week. Before starting their time away from football, however, the team held one open media session in the locker room and the players available all sang a similar song.
The Patriots would focus on three things above all else as they kicked open their four-day window without pro football: improvement, rest and family.
“You always want to go into the bye week with the mindset to get some rest but also ‘Hey, we’re going to clean up some past mistakes’ and things like that,” said defensive back Terrence Brooks, who is an offseason free agency signing in his first year with the club. “The emphasis is on that and a lot of guys are taking up on this, to go out and be accountable and look at their past mistakes to make sure they will clean them up too.”
“We know we’re 8-1 and we know that there’s a long way to go. We’re not going to settle on anything, we’ve got a lot to improve upon, and we’ll just look at things to do,” added running back Rex Burkhead. For the 29-year-old, the bye also presents a chance to get back to full strength again after dealing with injuries over the first half of the season: Burkhead missed three straight games from Week 5 to 7 because of a foot injury.
He is not the only player on the roster who should benefit from a few days away from work. The aforementioned Patrick Chung, for example, was one of eight players listed as questionable on the injury report heading into Sunday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. While all but two players — tight end Matt LaCosse and punt returner Gunner Olszewski — ultimately suited up, getting some rest can only help their recovery process.
“It is an opportunity for guys who may have some nicks, or just as a team as well recovering a little bit — as well as looking at some things we need to improve upon, some mistakes we’ve made in the first half of the season, and correct those and move forward,” Burkhead added when talking about the upcoming weekend off. He also mentioned that his family would enjoy the opportunity to spend some more time together.
“The family, of course, enjoys this. It’s just and opportunity to get to hang with them a little bit more; take some time away from football and relax,” he said while echoing remarks made by safety Devin McCourty: “For me it’s just about trying to feel better — wears and tears of the season [and] spend some time with the family. My kids and wife are looking forward to the couple of days of, and I am too. We just get to hang out and do some fun things.”
“It will be good, I know my kids they’re excited that I’ll be home for a while. It’s good for me and a lot of other players to just clear our minds and get away from the game just for a little bit, and just rest. We’re excited to get home and spend some time with our families,” continued Brooks when speaking about the team’s first real weekend off since before the Patriots opened their training camp in late July.
After the four-day break, however, the team will need to refocus quickly as a brutal four-game stretch against some of the NFL’s best teams awaits: New England will visit the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 12, followed by a home game against the Dallas Cowboys and a road contest against the Houston Texans. In Week 15, finally, the much-anticipated showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs will take place at Gillette Stadium.
“It’s going to be tough, we’re going into a tough part of our schedule,” wide receiver Phillip Dorsett pointed out. “We know that we’ve got a lot of teams that are out of division, teams we don’t know much [about] — a lot of good teams. We all have a lot of work ahead, and a lot to look forward to.”