For the next three days, the New England Patriots and the Detroit Lions will be sparring partners: from Monday through Wednesday, the two clubs will hold joint practices together in Detroit. For both clubs, this means a break of routine roughly two weeks into training camp — one that certainly appears to be welcome when listening to members of the Patriots speak about the opportunity to go against another team.
“Regardless of if it’s with someone else or us, we’re still going to practice and compete,” said team captain and veteran starting safety Patrick Chung — a player that has taken part in numerous such joint sessions in the past — when talking about the upcoming meetings with the Lions. “But it’s definitely better to go against other body types and certain players. So, I think it helps us. But regardless, we’re going to work anyway.”
Chung and the Patriots are no strangers to getting together with other organizations during training camp: while no joint practices were held last summer, New England teamed up with at least one club to conduct joint sessions leading up to a preseason contest every year from 2012 to 2017. This season is therefore ‘back to normal’ in a way as the reigning world champions will practice not just with the Lions but the Tennessee Titans as well.
For Chung’s running mate in the Patriots secondary, fellow team captain and starting safety Devin McCourty, the sessions will give the entire team a chance to finally work towards building chemistry and unity: “For us as a team, it gives us the first chance to be together. We come out here every day — it’s offense versus defense. We’re going at each other and I think once you go to a joint practice, it’s the first time you get to kind of unify as a team.”
“You go down there and you’re trying to win every period, whether it be special teams, offense, defense, we’re cheering each other on. To me, it’s all of the work we do here. We take that on the road now and see how it all measures up,” continued the nine-year veteran who has experienced his fair share of joint sessions over the course of his career. But while older players know what to expect, offseason additions also can take advantage of the opportunity.
“It’ll be good for us to get on the road and see how that is for the new guys. Just to compete with other players, it will make it a little more fun, a little more competitive,” said Chung when asked about the team trip to Detroit after last Friday’s practice before also mentioning his former defensive coordinator who is now head coach of the Lions: “I know Matty P. [Matt Patricia] — they’re ready to go, so it’ll be a good time.”
New England’s defensive leaders are not the only players looking forward to working alongside the NFC North team, though. The Patriots’ starting center, David Andrews, also recently talked about the upcoming joint workouts: “It’s always great to get to beat up on someone else. I enjoy them. I think they’re really good, especially when you’ve got a good group to work with that’ll really go out there and compete, work together, try to improve.”
The three practices will kick off at 9:30 a.m. each day, and undoubtably be among the most physical to date (at least the first two, the second projects to be more of a lighter/walkthrough session). Then, on Thursday, the two teams will meet in the preseason opener — and for the Patriots this will be another chance to “be together” as a team, as McCourty called it.