BOSTON (CBS) – This past week was a very important one for the New England Patriots.
They had seven days of practice following their 7-6 preseason win over the New Orleans Saints last Thursday, which is not a luxury they’ll have the rest of the way through their preseason schedule.
The Patriots will play three games in a 10-day stretch over the next week and a half, an odd schedule for any football team. After hosting the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette on Monday night, the Pats will head to Tampa for joint practices with the Buccaneers, who they will play Friday night. After that, it’s off to New York for their preseason finale against the New York Giants.
The Patriots used Friday’s practice to prep for the Eagles, and will do the same on Sunday after getting Saturday off. The stretch is less than ideal for any team, but the Patriots will manage.
“I think what is the unusual thing about this situation is just our ability to install anything, to actually put in plays or cover things,” head coach Bill Belichick said Thursday. “I’d say this week is pretty much about it. I think we’ll have good practices next week against Tampa like we had against New Orleans and the preseason games will be beneficial to us. But in terms of actually being able to go out there and talk about something in the morning, walk through it, practice it in the afternoon, watch the film at night, correct it, go through some of the little things that didn’t come up or that did come up that we need to kind of go back over again or fine tune again, that’s what you lose.”
“We’re just out on the practice field against Tampa and then we turn right around and play the Giants. So there’s no real time to install or work on anything; it’s just try to get ready for a game in a couple of days,” added Belichick.
The Pats players know they’re in for a tough schedule, but they are grateful it comes during the preseason. Their only daunting task during the regular season will be in mid-November, when they host the Indianapolis Colts November 18 and then play the Jets in New York four days later on Thanksgiving night.
“I mean, it’s always a big task. At the same time, it is preseason and obviously we wouldn’t be doing that during the regular season or anything like that,” said receiver Wes Welker. “But at the same time, we’ve got to get good work and make sure that we’re on top of it and doing it there and executing the way we need to and treat it like any other day.”
With the lack of true practices between games, there was an added sense of urgency over the last week of camp — as there will be when the Pats hit the field in Tampa.
But that is nothing new for the New England Patriots.
“I think there’s always urgency,” said Welker. “There’s always a need to get out there and get better and I think that urgency always needs to be there no matter what the scenario is.”
“We’re just going to prepare to play,” added receiver Brandon Lloyd. “There is really no other way around it. Our schedule is what it is. I think we conditioned hard enough, practiced hard enough, and have had enough padded practices our fundamentals and techniques should be very sound. We just have to go into these games and execute for as long as we need to.”
It will be interesting to see how Belichick handles these next three games. The third preseason game is often viewed as the most important; where the starters see their most playing time. But with only three days between the matchups against the Eagles and Bucs, that may shift a bit. The fourth and final game, usually reserved for players trying to make the squad, could feature some more of the stars as they get ready for the regular season.
If that were the case, the third game could now be most important for those fighting for a spot. Just another hurdle they’ll have to deal with with only three days off.
It’s been a grueling camp already, with each practice held outside in the heat, and the Patriots will now have a tough stretch of games in a short period of time.
But that’s what training camp and the preseason is for; to test teams both on and off the field. The Patriots love adversity, and their quirky schedule is some good practice.
If nothing else, corner Devin McCourty has the right attitude.
“Like my rookie year (when there was a lockout), we’ve had different things come up. We just listen to coach; whatever he says to do has proven that it will work out,” said McCourty.