By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
NFL teams usually have some sort of training camp slogan or motto each year. It’s usually printed on shirts, such as the Wanted: Winners shirts Rodney Harrison talks about in the Super Bowl XXXIX DVD. Sometimes there’s a symbol attached, like the anchor Bill Belichick put in the team’s locker room during camp in 2001.
While these messages are usually kept internal until years later, reading between the lines of the Patriots who spoke on Monday have give us a hint into what the team is buying into for 2020. During the press availability on the first day of camp, two common themes kept popping up; control, and taking things day by day.
It started almost right away, when Belichick was asked if not having fans present would make practice any different.
“That’s all out of our control, so we’re going to try to focus on the things that we can control,” the coach said Monday morning. “We have a lot of practices throughout the course of the year where there aren’t fans there, so I don’t think that’s something the team is unaccustomed to. Actually, we are accustomed to it. So, we’ll control the things that we can control and the things we can’t control, we’re not going to worry about.”
That idea of ‘control what you can control’ came up after practice, when cornerback Stephon Gilmore was asked about any added pressure following massive personnel overhaul on the defensive side of the ball this offseason.
“You’ve got to adjust and try to be consistent with your game, just control what you can control,” Gilmore said. “And that’s what I’m gonna do is control what I can control and try to make plays for my teammates.”
Linebacker Chase Winovich echoed that idea when he was asked about making a sizable jump from year one to year two.
“Potential is just air. What I’m focused on is what I can control and I can’t worry about what year it is,” Winovich replied. “I need to worry about the process. I’ve really invested in that process and I know that I’ve taken steps this offseason to take that leap that I’m trying to hold myself accountable to and take that next step as an athlete.”
Finally, safety Terrence Brooks has his own ‘control’ moment, when asked to reflect on last year’s season ending loss.
“I’d like to stay focused on what I’m doing now, and what I can control right now.”
In addition to ‘control,’ the idea of a day-to-day approach was mentioned numerous times.
When Gilmore was asked about how he can improve on what was an all-time great 2019 season, he answered, “Like I said, I just take it day by day…I just put in work each and every day. And I know what it took for me last year to play consistently each and every game. There’s nothing I can do but just put my head down and work hard and try to achieve things this year each and every day.”
Gilmore brought that phrase back a few more times, when talking about the energy at practice without fans (“we’re just trying to have fun and take that each and every day“), the younger players improving (“They take it each and every day and try to get better”), and COVID testing (“We’re just trying to do the right thing each and every day to protect each other”).
When Winovich was asked if he’s becoming more comfortable as a player, he answered, “I’m just taking things day by day. I’m just focused on each day. The confidence will come from hard work and execution.”
Terrence Brooks response when asked if he thinks he can carve out a bigger role? “All you can do is go out here and work each day.”
There were a handful of additional examples, but by now I’m sure you get the point.
It’s not uncommon for a team, especially the Patriots, to give their players some media coaching. So multiple players on the same team sounding similar isn’t all that shocking, but the volume here stands out.
Plus, these are logical concepts for the Patriots to embrace right now. There’s so much happening in the world currently that can wildly impact basic activities, and cause massive shifts in routine. To focus on the things that are in front of you, and not look to far ahead, frankly feels like great advice for anybody living through 2020, not just football players.
Whether it’s printed on the training camp t-shirts or not, the message from the Patriots on day one of training camp was clear; be in the moment today, then plan on doing the same thing tomorrow.
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