2020 is a year of change for the New England Patriots. From big-picture developments like Tom Brady’s free agency departure or the retirement of long-time offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, to numerous player opt-outs in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, to the latest series of game postponements that happened in light of four players on the team testing positive for Covid-19, the Patriots have been forced to adapt quite a bit this year.
And yet, at least according to their head coach, they have hit all the challenges they have faced so far in stride.
“They’ve done a good job of adjusting all year,” Bill Belichick said about his players during a media conference call on Saturday. “We’ve done things differently this year than we’ve ever done them before or probably anybody’s ever done them before. So, they’ve done an excellent job of adjusting and adapting. We’ve had to make some last-minute changes and adjustments to our schedule, to our routine.”
The latest change to that routine came just one day after Belichick’s virtual press conference.
With Byron Cowart testing positive for the Coronavirus on late Saturday, and thus joining quarterback Cam Newton, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and fellow defensive tackle Bill Murray on the NFL’s Reserve/Covid-19 list, the league had to change its schedule. New England’s game against the Denver Broncos, which had already moved from Sunday to Monday after Gilmore’s positive test earlier during the week, was postponed yet again.
Following a series of moves to keep the integrity of the schedule intact, Patriots-Broncos was moved to Week 6. The change was not the first this season for Belichick’s team: just one week earlier, after Newton became the first Patriot to test positive, the highly anticipated game against the Kansas City Chiefs was moved from Sunday to Monday night.
“It’s been hard to get into a routine, which is something I think that you always develop during every season — you can pick out almost any hour and minute of the day during the course of a week and know what you’re doing,” said Belichick. “It’s three days before the game – doesn’t matter if the game’s on Monday, Sunday, Saturday, whatever it is — you can go three days before the game and know what you’re working on, know what your practice consists of that day, players know what kind of treatment or film study in their routine that they’re on, so forth.
“We get into a very regimented pattern based on working backwards from the game — the day before the game, two days before the game, three days before the game, four days before the game, day after the game. So, this year there’s been much less of a routine, but we’re in a different time.”
Belichick went on to praise not just his players for adapting on the fly, but also the Patriots’ coaches as well as their support staff. Ever since Newton’s positive test on October 2, the team found itself in an uncertain situation not just because it suddenly had to adapt to life without its starting quarterback.
“It’s been everybody,” Belichick said. “It’s been the support staff, the coaching staff, the players, the entire organization. As things have changed, which they continually have, we’ve tried to respond and react to those as quickly and efficiently and correctly as we possibly can. I think that overall we’ve done a pretty good job of that. It’s not perfect, but overall it’s been a pretty good job.
“We’ve had a lot of cooperation from all the parties that I just mentioned and everybody’s had a little patience when maybe things aren’t in place as quickly or as efficiently as they normally are because of the adjusted scheduling, that everybody’s done a good job of working through that and in a lot of cases pitching in and helping out to lend a hand to make things go a little more smoothly.”
Belichick ended his appraisal with a statement that can also be read on a greater scale — not just in relation to the Patriots organization and its handling of the recent Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent adaptations, but also in terms of the NFL and even the nation as a whole.
“We’re all part of that and we’ve all been affected by it, and we’ll all probably continue to be affected by it. We’ll continue to work through it the best that we can.”