With today’s joint session in the books, the New England Patriots now have ten days worth of practices on their 2019 training camp résumé. While the team still has a long way to go before roster cutdowns later this month and the regular season opener on September 8, it appears as if one of the most challenging periods of the summer is behind the players and coaches — at least if head coach Bill Belichick is to be believed.
The future Hall of Famer, who is entering his 45th year in the NFL, spoke about the challenges of camp during a press conference earlier today and pointed out that the first ten days in particular are especially difficult for everyone involved: “The first ten days of camp are hard for everybody because there’s new material being installed all the time, and then the other side of the ball’s installing new material all the time,” said Belichick.
“Exponentially, the multiples increase very dramatically,” he continued. “It’s not just one side of the ball putting in a few things. It’s that, times all the things that are in, plus all the new things the other side of the ball installs and so forth. So, things start to settle down a little bit now. It’s not everything against everything. It’s a smaller menu against the more specific things our opponent does, in this case that Detroit’s doing.”
Belichick touches on a key point here: installing schemes and plays versus preparing for a specific opponent and reacting to what he does. Joint practices certainly give the team a unique opportunity to work on both at this point in the process, with the latter — and a focus on more situational work — taking center stage. The challenge that is training camp therefore changes as the Patriots head towards the preseason.
“I think the process actually narrows there. Competition picks up and the unfamiliarity of Detroit, relative to the familiarity that we have with our own team is more, so it’s emphasis in different areas,” added Belichick. “Yeah, the first part of camp is hard — it’s hard for coaches, it’s hard for players. You’re trying to make adjustments to everything that can happen. Not everything’s going to happen, but you have to cover it because eventually it will.”
“On a week-to-week basis, you just don’t see the full spectrum of what you see over the course of the season. But when you install you kind of cover everything, so the volume’s high,” he noted to wrap up his answer (which was actually the response to a question about rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham). Belichick also pointed out, however, that his team “can improve in every area [...] coaching, playing, running, passing, kicking — you name it.”
Needless to say that Belichick’s speech about the early-camp challenges a team faces adds further context to what has been going on on the practice fields over the last two weeks. Some players, especially those that bring experience in the system to the table, may be able to quicker to adapt. Others, need more time. In the end, though, it’s all about one thing: getting the players and coaches ready as well as possible.