For Bill Belichick and the Patriots, it's time to cram

By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com

Part of what has made Bill Belichick such a successful coach in the second half of the Patriots dynasty is just experience. The guy has seen it all, and has a solution for any situation.

Or rather, he had seen it all - until COVID-19 showed up and threw the NFL offseason out of whack.

Now, Belichick is tasked with fitting a month of training camp, plus about another month of OTAs into a three-week stretch. The most the team has done to this point is Zoom meetings for the last few months, and then slow-paced workouts the last week.

"I'm sure we have a lot of work to do, both coaches and players getting back into coaching at that level and the players playing and reacting at that level," Belichick told reporters Friday morning. "This will be a good experience for all of us. That's kind of where we're at here. Get through the weekend and then start padded practices on Monday."

Jul 27, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick walks onto the field during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Belichick isn't trying to understate the progress the Patriots have made so far with, "the pre-snap, line of scrimmage, and initial assignment, we've had an opportunity to go over that extensively, and I feel pretty good about where we are there."

Where he says the team will need to play catch-up is, "the things that happen post-snap, and fundamentals and execution of our assignments at a high tempo with contact against a quality opponent. So those are the things that we haven't done, that nobody has been able to do."

What would the timeline usually look like for the Patriots at this stage? "Last night would have been our first preseason game," Belichick noted. "But we haven't even had a full-speed team practice yet, let alone in pads. So that's where we are compared to where we normally are."

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Does that mean things will be cut from the usual schedule? According to Belichick, "we're just going to have to condense some of the things that we do in the first two weeks of training camp," which are usually fundamentals.

That will of course have the biggest impact on the rookies, who Belichick commented "have worked extremely hard. They're in deep water. In turbulent water, and it's gonna get rougher...But they're really all in the same boat. It's a hard-working, conscientious, diligent group. They have a lot that they're going to have absorb."

It's important to remember the Patriots aren't the only team facing the challenge of a rushed training camp. "I think it's all relative," Belichick said. "Whatever time we have is the same amount of time everybody else has, and visa versa. We try to use our time as efficiently as possible."

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Every team in the NFL has taken a slightly different approach to this unorthodox offseason. With such little time to prepare, each small decision becomes more impactful, and those who made the most of the minimal time will see results.

So while it is "all relative," and all new, in some ways Bill Belichick is right where he feels comfortable, looking to find his team an advantage on a seemingly even playing field. But this time, instead of being up against another football team, he's up against a clock.

The Patriots will begin full-pad practices on Monday, as the condensed preparation continues. For full Patriots training camp coverage, be sure to bookmark 985TheSportsHub.com.

Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].