Why shared practices work for Patriots


Why shared practices work for Patriots

Wondering why the Patriots have opted to share the training camp practice field with the Saints and Buccaneers this offseason?

Bill Belichick loves doing it.

After a day spent practicing with New Orleans back in August of 2010, Belichick said, "I thought yesterdays practice was probably one of the most productive practices I think Ive been a part of in my career."

Those sessions marked the third time that the Patriots have paired up with an NFC team since Belichick's been with the Patriots.

The first time the Pats shared a practice was in 2001 with the Giants. New England also worked out with the Falcons in Flowery Branch and hosted the Saints.

There were no shared practices last year, likely thanks to the compressed preseason caused by the lockout.

The Saints will be at Foxboro on August 7 and 8 in advance of the August 9 preseason game. The Patriots will work with Tampa on the 22nd and 23rd before playing at Tampa on the 24th.

One reason these practices benefit the Patriots so much is they are an established program. There isn't a lot of orientation and installation that needs to be done on either side of the ball. Offensively, the quarterback is a veteran, the offensive line is made up of returning players, the skill players have all played in Josh McDaniels' system. The same goes for the defense.

This year, the Saints and Bucs stand to benefit quite a bit from working against the Patriots. The Buccaneers are under a new head coach, Greg Schiano, and working with the Patriots will allow them to see the tempo and attitude of a team that Schiano will no doubt try to build his team in a similar way.

The Saints, with all their offseason travails, will benefit from getting outside of their own heads and having interim head coach Joe Vitt get his feet wet leading a team against another, even if its just in practices.

Belichick, who's developed close relationships with both Saints coach Sean Payton and Schiano, will happily help those teams out for friendship and what his team gets in return. Belichick couldn't have been more effusive in 2010.

"We saw a lot of things from the Saints that we havent seen working against ourselves. ...They do a lot of things well, so there were a lot of things that we were able to evaluate and also adjust to. We can walk through them, we can talk through them, but its different when a good team does them and hurts you with them and you have to make those changes," said Belichick. "(There's) no better preparation for a game than working against the team youre going to play. Weve seen a lot in the two practices yesterday. Well see a lot more today. Its been a great learning experience for our football team, not just the players but our staff as well."

It certainly seems to help that there's a friendly relationship and respect between the coaches. If the tenor is competitive and mutually beneficial but not bitter, it will work.

"Its been so easy to work with them. Its been so easy. Do you want to do this? Yeah, we were thinking the same thing. Do you want to do that? Yeah, thats the way we do it. Most of the conversations, thats the way they go," said Belichick. "If he brings something up to me I say Yeah, great. Thats the way we do it. The individual one-on-one drills, the team drills, the down-and-distance stuff, how we call things, its been very easy to work with them from a structural standpoint, which I expected it would be. I really did, just from our relationship and when we talked about it in the spring and then a couple times over the summer and then when we both came to training camp. Its been very easy. The degree of difficulty on this from a coaching standpoint and working together has been very low. No time and a lot of benefit, so those are the kind I like."

And what's not to like?