The NFL announced its preseason and regular season schedules earlier this month, and the New England Patriots’ first game of the new year will come against a familiar foe: the Detroit Lions, coached by former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, will visit Gillette Stadium on August 13 for the two teams’ preseason opener. Naturally, this presents an opportunity to also hold joint practice sessions in the week leading up to the game.
According to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, this would be the preferred outcome and something both Patricia and New England head coach Bill Belichick hope will eventually materialize despite the current Coronavirus pandemic creating an unclear environment:
The Patriots and Lions got their wish with a Week 1 preseason game against each other, which sets things up nicely for the teams to get together for joint practices leading up to it. But while Belichick and Lions coach Matt Patricia would like that to be the end result, everything is essentially on hold as of now. Just too many unknowns with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Patriots and Lions are no strangers when it comes to joint training camp practices after already working alongside each other leading up to last year’s preseason opener in Detroit. The teams held three practice sessions last August — with the first two of them coming in a full-pad setting — before New England’s 31-3 victory during the subsequent exhibition showdown. A repeat of 2019, however, is pretty much up in the air given the circumstances.
While the NFL has allowed teams to slowly start reopening their facilities as early as today in case local regulations allow such a move, the majority of coaches and players — those not involved in an injury rehabilitation process — are not yet allowed in. The league hopes to change this sooner rather than later, but the road from being able to work out to holding practices and games with another team present is still a long and potentially perilous one.
For the time being, however, the Patriots and Lions still hold out hope that they will be able to jointly practice in less than three months.