Like most football coaches, Bill Belichick has the reputation of a taskmaster. The New England Patriots head coach doesn’t like to pass up opportunities to gain an advantage over the opposition and miss teachable moments for his players and assistants.
But underneath that serious, sourpuss exterior, Belichick knows the importance of rest, recovery and reward for his team. Apparently, he was very satisfied with the work put in last week during last week’s minicamp. The Patriots were scheduled for two days of practice this week, but Belichick announced during Monday’s first team meeting that those sessions (along with media access) were being canceled.
No word on what the team-building exercise will be as of yet. Presumably, no one wants to risk injury with trust falls. Maybe a blindfolded partner obstacle course, hot dog tag, or a rousing game of “I Have Never”? Last year, the team-bonding activity was a field trip to Fenway Park, which included baseball activities and games like cornhole.
It’s difficult to imagine that any team-building experience could be much better than the Super Bowl ring ceremony held at Robert Kraft’s home last Thursday. Of course, not everyone on the current roster participated. (What motivation for those who didn’t play for a Super Bowl championship last season. however.)
The next time players and coaches will get together will be at training camp in late July. Several questions still need to be answered before the regular season kicks off, such as who will win the starting left tackle position, which tight end replaces Rob Gronkowski, and making some decisions about the wide receiver group. But those answers weren’t going to be determined during the next two days.
Altogether, the Patriots held eight practices for the spring: three mandatory minicamp sessions and five voluntary OTAs back in May. As NESN’s Zack Cox points out, the team held 10 full-team practices last spring before the Fenway Park trip and then canceled the final two OTAs of minicamp.
Having fun was a topic of concern last year following grumblings from some former players like Cassius Marsh that playing for the Patriots was not an enjoyable experience. Philadelphia Eagles tackle Lane Johnson also criticized New England after Super Bowl LII for “arrogance” and running “a fear-based organization.”
Coaches and executives appeared to take those gripes seriously and tried to keep things loose last year. Canceling the spring’s final two practices was a big part of that effort. Considering the season ended with a Super Bowl championship, the approach paid off and is wisely being applied again this year.
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