Better than ‘as good’
Early Monday morning the Patriots left their hotel outside Las Vegas, surrounded by fast-food joints in strip plazas popping up from dusty, flat earth, hung a few turns and found their way to the futuristic football oasis where the Raiders are headquartered.
Built over a span of 15 months for an estimated $75 million, the Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center rises from the Mojave Desert about a dozen miles from the Bellagio Fountain and is no less spectacular.
“This is magnificent,” said head coach Bill Belichick, his back to the 130,440-square-foot building housing a regulation field and a half, while facing an outdoor pool used for rehab and recovery. “I’ve been to a lot of good facilities and there’ve been some amazing college facilities, but I’d put this up there against any of them.”
As Belichick spoke, Patriots players were just getting to work on the three pristinely-manicured, natural grass fields, where they practiced on their own before engaging in joint workouts the next two days with the host Raiders.
“I mean, forget about the amenities, (it’s) the fields, the weight room, the offices, the indoor facility, the proximity, the ease of everything. Yeah, this is…this is as good as any I’ve seen,” Belichick continued, before correcting himself. “Better than any I’ve seen. Not as good, better than anything I’ve seen. It’s outstanding. It’s great for us to be able to work here. Ideal working conditions.”
Overall, the Raiders’ facility takes up 33 acres. In addition to being 150 yards long, the field house used for indoor practices has a 108-foot-high ceiling; so as to remain unscathed by even a Ray Guy-like punt. There’s an agility hill and sand pit. The weight room Belichick referenced, where the Pats got a lift in immediately after practice concluded. And the aforementioned pool.
“Nice pool here,” a smiling Belichick remarked, as temperatures climbed out of the 80s shortly after 9 a.m. “It’s pretty tempting.”
Afterwards, at least one Patriot, Raekwon McMillan submerged himself, prompting the Boston Globe’s Jim McBride to ask Jakobi Meyers if he considered joining his teammate.
“It looks appeasing right now,” he joked, peering over a black fence toward the water. “I might jump the gate, get a little swimming in.”
Of course, on Tuesday the guest Patriots will be joined by the facility’s residents for joint practices. With a lot of ex-Pats on the Raiders’ staff and roster, starting with head coach Josh McDaniels, one expects this week to go swimmingly in comparison to the fight-marred joint practices with Carolina last week.
A key to maximizing their time, Belichick says, is “finding the right tempo.”
“It’s easier said than done, and sometimes things get either a little above or below that, so you just have to adjust it,” he said, when asked if familiarity can help avoid the contempt.
“Other than a couple of plays last week, it really wasn’t a problem. But there were a couple of plays and we all have to do a better job with those, so hopefully that won’t come up this week. We’re not expecting it, we’re not looking for it.”