FOXBORO -- There is a Sisyphean feel to an NFL season. Every day, you push the rock up the mountain. Thirty-one teams see the rock roll back over them before they reach the summit. The team that wins the Super Bowl, gets a few months peace while the rock is perched at the peak and then they too start again.
Last week's respite provided the Patriots a chance to spit on their hands, reset their feet and, this week, to resume pushing.
"I think there definitely was a sense of relief from all of us, coaches and players, of just not having to game plan last week," Bill Belichick acknowledged Tuesday. "Not having the whole mental pressure of coming up with a game plan of each day, thinking of game plans and adjustments and red area game plans and adjustments and third down and two-minute and goal line and just the weight of studying for a final exam, if you will."
It also, of course, affords players the chance to get some work done around the house before the snow flies. Like, clean the gutters?
"I tried that because my gutters were overflowing," said linebacker Rob Ninkovich. "Then I decided, 'I'm renting this place, I shouldn't be falling off the roof of the house right now.' So I stopped what I was doing. The first time, I got on the roof, I was like, 'I'm not doing this.' The day before it was raining and I was like, 'Man, I gotta clean those gutters out.' (After I got up there) I called the landlord and said, 'Hey, bring somebody out here, please.' "
With the Patriots' tough logistical stretch leading into the bye -- at Seattle, home with the Jets, in London for the Rams game -- the mental break was vital, Belichick said.
"Youre grinding through a week of preparation and then you go for the final exam and after youve had eight of those, its nice to have a week where just one week you dont have to study, you dont have to game plan, you dont have a final exam, you dont have all the mental adjustments you have to go through," Belichick admitted. "This week were back into it and hopefully we have a little bit of a freshness or a better approach to it than after eight weeks of doing. Well see."
Ninkovich, down from the ladder, indicates he's refreshed and ready.
"When you're a little bit banged up it's tough to mentally stay strong so when you get that bye week to get your body back, you just have more confidence knowing that, 'Hey, I'm good, I'm fresh, I'm ready to roll.' It works both ways."