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FOXBORO -- Dante Scarnecchia wasn't looking to get back into coaching. He wasn't sitting at home for the last two years, living and dying with each Patriots offensive snap as though he was still the team's offensive line coach.
He was spending time with his wife and his grandchildren. He was traveling. He was going to bed early. He was retired, and he was loving it.
But he got a call over the winter, soon after the Patriots lost the AFC title game to the Broncos, asking if he would return to his old job at One Patriot Place. He discussed it with his wife for more than a week before coming to the conclusion that he'd make his return.
The team announced that Scarnecchia had been re-hired, replacing Dave DeGuglielmo, in March.
"It is a tough decision because you become very used to a very nice lifestyle," he said on Monday. "I like retirement, now. Retirement was great. A lot of fun. We saw things we hadn't seen ever. Took trips, spent a lot of time with our grandkids. All that was great. To a degree, it's very, very hard to give up.
"We talked about it, my wife and I, and we decided this would be a good thing on a lot of different levels, as far as the grandkids being able to come to the games for free and just be a part of it all. And I like coaching football. I love coaching football. I didn't retire because I didn't like coaching football. I retired because I got tired of the lifestyle. Two years off, I'm OK."
Scarnecchia was clear: He wasn't getting back into it if any other team came calling.
"I think the No. 1 thing is, if you decide to go back into coaching, you're kind of at the mercy of the business. That is to say, who's going to hire you and where are you going to go? What makes it unique here is everything is the same. That really makes it easy.
"Honestly, I probably would not have gotten back into coaching had I had to go somewhere else. Because I was going by myself. [My wife] ain't going. Let's get that straight. I can't leave my kids and my grandkids. I'm not doing that."
Though he feels good, feels refreshed, Scarnecchia has been reminded very quickly of what the job entails. During one of his first days back on the job, the Patriots held a 14-hour personnel meeting.
That part of the yearly routine, he did not miss.
"It wasn't like I was sitting at home thinking, 'Boy, I wish I was there and I wish I could do this.' It wasn't any of that," Scarnecchia said. "I know what the job entails. Yeah it's fun being out on the field, it's fun being in the meeting rooms, it's fun being a part of the whole situation, but you know, the hours are long, the days are long. It's a tough business, it's a really tough business, and I was willing to step back into it despite all that."
Scarnecchia will have a few familiar faces in the offensive line meetings that take place during Phase Two of the offseason program, including Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer and Josh Kline. Most of the others, though, have been added to the team since Scarnecchia retired following the 2013 season. Centers Bryan Stork and David Andrews, as well as guards Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason will all have to adapt to a new voice.
Scarnecchia explained, however, that the system is still the same as it ever was under DeGuglielmo. And even though he's been gone for two years, the game itself -- and offensive line play in particular -- is as it always was.
"The game's pretty much the same," he said. "Get off the ball. Hit him. Do a great job of setting. Put yourself between the launch point and them, with inside out leverage . . . . We ain't building rockets."
Rookie seasons are no small task for players -- regardless if it’s a pitcher or hitter. It’s the major adjustment of facing guys who have better control with multiple pitches, or hitters who’ve seen just about everything.
However, if you ask some players, the real adjustment comes in the second full season, when organizations have developed extensive scouting reports on players.
The “sophomore slump” is something hitters deal with during that stretch. Numbers tend to drop because scouting reports expose flaws, something that minor league pitchers don’t often have access to.
Mookie Betts, however, doesn’t entirely agree with the notion that it calls for a major slump.
“I mean I don’t know if it’s necessarily a thing,” the sophomore right fielder said. “You hear about it and whatnot, but I think it’s just an adjustment period guys go through. Everybody’s done it. Some people just get out of it faster.”
Early on it appeared Betts was falling into the stages of a “sophomore slump,” going through a 1-for-19 rut after opening day, then 2-for-21 stretch through mid-April.
Since that last slump ended on April 20th, Betts has boasted a .321 clip with two home runs, two triples and three doubles. He’s knocked in eight runs in the process, scoring 14 times himself.
So -- needless to say -- he doesn’t think it was the aforementioned slump
“No, I think it was just adjustments,” Betts explained. “I pretty much think it was just more adjustments that I had to make. Fortunately I was able to make a couple of them. That’s all it is. They make a move and we’ve got to make a move back.”
The adjustments weren’t a mechanical issue either -- it was more related to his approach at the plate.
“It’s important for me to go be aggressive,” Betts said. “They’re not trying to walk me, they aren’t trying to walk anybody -- except David Ortiz.”
One thing Betts has done a better job of since his last slump was shoot pitches to right field. He has to do that if he hopes to hit well because most, if not all, pitchers know he’ll clear out any inside pitch to the Monster seats faster than they can blink.
“They still make mistakes, too,” he said on pitchers working away from him. “I think the part is being aggressive and being ready for those mistakes.”
Like most hitters, Betts doesn’t expect to go though a major slump in 2016, but he knows there are more factors in play than the contact he makes.
“It just depends,” Betts said. “A lot goes into balls falling. I think I’ve hit the ball well this year and haven’t gotten a lot to fall. But then again, I have gotten some to fall. I think I’ve done pretty well, even through the time I was struggling I thought I did all right. [It’s] just [about] trying to get out of those little slumps quickly.”