In the aftermath of the New England Patriots’ victory in Super Bowl 53, NFL Films released a mic’d-up clip showing a pre-game conversation between Bill Belichick and referee John Parry. The topic: the retractable roof of Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Belichick was concerned about the process of the roof being closed and wind possibly coming through to impact the kickoff. Talk about a detail-oriented coach.
That attention to detail was also on display during Belichick’s media conference call on Wednesday. New England’s head coach was asked about his team’s upcoming games against Los Angeles’ two teams, the Chargers and Rams, at the new SoFi Stadium — a venue the Patriots have not yet played in, just like Mercedes-Benz Stadium two years ago.
Belichick went on to break down his organization’s preparation rituals when it comes to visiting a new stadium for the first time.
“At a new stadium, or say a stadium we haven’t been to in a while, it’s definitely a priority,” Belichick said about getting familiar with the surroundings. “Like when we played in Mexico, we’ve never been to that stadium. You go out, look at the turf, get familiar with the surroundings. Where’s the 40-second clock? Where’s the game clock? What are the factors with the sun or the lights or background for guys that are catching the ball and returners?
“Are there any other notable things? You don’t want to have a player in the middle of the game all of a sudden be standing on the logo, feeling like it’s slick. Those are the kind of things. Whatever it is, it is. But you just don’t want to be surprised or distracted on that type of thing during the game, so we try to get it out of the way.”
The Patriots have not played at a brand-new stadium since the aforementioned Super Bowl, with the only other team on their schedule playing its home games at a new location this season — the recently relocated Las Vegas Raiders — having visited Gillette Stadium earlier during the year.
As Belichick pointed out, however, the team has gotten some experience throughout the years when it comes to getting ready for new surroundings. The 2018 title game and the international contest against the Raiders in Mexico City during the 2017 season are the two most recent but far from the only recent examples given a recent building boom around the NFL.
Needless to say when it comes to the Belichick-led Patriots, there is a lot goes into this process of familiarizing oneself with those new surroundings.
“A lot of times when you’re in an unfamiliar stadium for a quarterback or defense not really knowing where the 40-second clock is, and they’re trying to time up a blitz or the quarterback’s looking and it’s sometimes in the corner, sometimes it’s underneath the goal post, sometimes it’s in different locations — those kind of things you definitely want to get a familiarity with,” said Belichick.
New England’s head coach also noted that his team is not just relying on its experiences taking the field before a game, but also trying to take advantage of other clubs’ accounts.
“We have plenty of people in the league, relationships in one place or another, where you can call and ask somebody what their experiences are like, if there is anything notable or unusual that we should make our team, our coaches, our players aware of,” Belichick added. “Sometimes that could be the coaches’ booth, maybe the vantage point is better at one end of the field than the other end of the field.
“Whatever the case might be there’s a lot of little things that you try to, if you’re not familiar with it, gain as much knowledge as you can about. Especially teams that have played there, division teams that have played there every year, probably have some insight that can help you.”
The Patriots’ first game at SoFi Stadium will take place this Sunday against the Chargers, with a Thursday nighter versus the Rams — coincidentally a rematch of Super Bowl 53 — coming up next week.