FOXBORO -- It may be only the second day of training camp, but the grind is on for the Patriots.
On Saturday, they were back on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium in shells and shorts. Before they took the field, head coach Bill Belichick explained that he expected the novelty of a new year's camp to be all but worn off and that there's a daily nose-to-the-grindstone approach he's expecting his players to take into every camp session from this point on.
"We’re really just in the mindset now [of] just trying to string them together," he said. "Take it one day at a time. Take the things we did yesterday, correct them, go back over them, add new things to put in today, go out, work on those and just grind it through day by day."
Belichick lingered on that word: grind. Every day, the goal is the same. There are new players to incorporate into the system, rookies who need to learn the pro game, veterans who are expected to get back on the horse relatively quickly and lead by example. The moving pieces are many, and there will be a great deal of effort put forth over these next few weeks to ensure that by Aug. 9 the team is ready to play its first preseason game against the Eagles in Philadelphia.
"There’s no magic wand, no special formula," Belichick said. "Just hard work, putting the pieces in place one at a time, day by day, period by period. Each guy has a lot of things that they all need to work on, we all need to work on, coaches included, at this time of year. Each of us individually is trying to address those things, take those challenges and collectively as a team pull them all together. We’ll start to try to string together a few good days in camp. That’s where we’re at today."
Saturday's session saw its share of sloppy moments. There were dropped balls, fumbled punts and blown coverages. But there were also some eye-opening performances (receiver Aaron Dobson and corner Alfonzo Dennard were two of the most impressive).
More so than by judging individual performances, one could discern the intensity of Saturday's session by listening. Belichick's tone at practice was firm and audible to the media tent stationed behind the end zones at the North end of the practice fields. Similarly, quarterback Tom Brady could be heard barking at receivers during 11-on-11 drills.
It was clear that in Day 2, the time to warm up and get acclimated to camp was over. The grind had arrived, and it will continue on Sunday when the Patriots strap on their pads for the first time this summer.