The New England Patriots have taken a slower approach to the start of 2018 training camp than observers are used to seeing. One possible reason for that is, well, they’ve played in three of the last four Super Bowls and the coaches don’t want to overwork the team too early.
Head coach Bill Belichick confirmed as much on Friday. He talked about the team’s approach during a conference call, explaining that the Patriots’ unusually heavy slate of games compared to other teams is at least one big factor in the slow build that has defined camp so far.
“There isn’t really much we can do about [the workload and schedule], and playing late into the season the year before is definitely what we want to do, so not complaining about that. But, it does affect the following season, there’s no question about that,” Belichick said. “In the end, we try to take everything into consideration that we have, what our opportunities are, where we are as a football team, collectively and individually with certain players that may need modification of their workload and so forth, and then try to do the best that we can with that time and those opportunities for our players and for the team development as a whole. That’s a balance that we talk about every day.
“We have a general plan, but we discuss it each day, sometimes to modify it or occasionally make a change in it. But, usually we try to stick pretty close to what we’ve planned. But, there are times when we can’t quite stay on schedule for one reason or another. Yeah, there’s a lot of factors involved, but the one that you mentioned is definitely one of them that comes into play.”
Belichick’s approach could also explain why Thursday’s preseason opener had relatively significant workloads for receiver Julian Edelman and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Edelman missed all of 2017 with a torn ACL and will sit out the first four games of the 2018 season due to a four-game suspension. Hightower, meanwhile, played in only five games in 2017 before suffering a torn pectoral muscle in Week 7 that knocked him out for the rest of the season.
But the intensity could ramp up now, after Belichick clearly wasn’t happy with the sloppy effort of his starting units in the first half of Thursday’s game, which the Patriots came back to win 26-17 on the strength of the performance of their backups. The starters didn’t look quite ready for real football action against actual opponents, so it wouldn’t be a shock if things got dialed up over the next week.
Still, the Pats have mostly avoided major injuries with their lighter approach to training camp, unless you count Sony Michel’s knee issue or Jordan Matthews’ hamstring injury that precipitated his release. No ACL injuries, though. That’s been a positive byproduct of starting slower, but the team will have to turn it up a few notches at some point. It wouldn’t be surprising if now is the time for Belichick to do it.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.