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Under the Lights: Patriots fans enjoy a free night of football

Posted Aug 5, 2014

New England Patriots' Annual In-Stadium Practice for season ticket members and local residents attracts 22,886 fans to Gillette Stadium for a free night of football on Friday, Aug. 1.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Football was in the air on Friday, Aug. 1, as 22,886 fans united in Foxborough to get a glimpse at the 2014 New England Patriots at the team's annual in-stadium practice under the lights at Gillette Stadium.

Now in its eighth year, the free event provides the Patriots organization an opportunity to show its appreciation for its local communities and loyal fan base.

"We started the tradition as an added amenity to thank our season ticket members for their dedication to the team and, as we do as often as we can, we include local residents to thank them for their support as well," said Dan Murphy, Gillette Stadium's vice president of external affairs.

The team provided complimentary tickets to season ticket members and Foxborough and South Walpole residents to the annual event, which is closed to the general public. Prior to the in-stadium practice, thousands of fans gathered outside The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon to celebrate the induction of former cornerback and three-time Super Bowl Champion Ty Law into the Patriots Hall of Fame. The ceremony was free and open to the public.

Foxborough resident Daniel Jakes has attended the Patriots' in-stadium practice every year since its inception because he enjoys the atmosphere around the stadium.

"Everyone is here for the same reason - to enjoy the Patriots," Jakes said. "The Kraft family has always done a lot to incorporate Foxborough. When they built the stadium and built Patriot Place, they seemed to go out of their way to make it comfortable for Foxborough residents. It's been great."

Watching practice from seats in the south end zone, Jakes admitted he is sick of summer and ready for football.

"The anticipation that builds throughout each year is so fantastic," Jakes said. "I think this season is going to be great. It looks like we have a really strong team. We have a lot of talented young players, so it's going to be interesting to see how it works out. I feel like the Pats have as strong a chance as ever to win it all this year."

Gabe Fonseca, of Woburn, agreed.

"We have a great team, and it obviously starts with [Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick and [quarterback] Tom Brady," Fonseca said. "I think [wide receiver] Danny Amendola is going to have a good year for us this year and adding [cornerback] Darrelle Revis on defense is awesome. I can't wait for this season."

The in-stadium practice was extra special for Fonseca as he was introducing his four-year-old son, Bodhi, to Patriots football and Gillette Stadium.

"This is Bodhi's first time watching live football," Fonseca said. "I'm so excited to share this with him and begin teaching him the game in person like this. It's a great family event."

Elsewhere on the main concourse, a father and his two sons explained that Patriots football is something of a family tradition.

"Our family is a club that watches Patriots football," said Joe Bucko, 71, of Westfield. "If you notice on the back of our jerseys, the name is ‘Bucko.' We are all Buckos. If you look at the numbers on our jerseys, that represents the year each of us were born. We were born Patriots fans."

Joe's son, Joseph, 42, said he and his family love coming to Gillette Stadium every chance they get, because "it's always a great time."

"We love the Patriots," Joseph Bucko said. "There isn't a better place to be than inside Gillette Stadium watching football."

The Buckos said they liked what they were seeing from the team during the in-stadium practice and are expecting big things this season.

"We've beefed up our defense and I think we are going to have a great offense again this year," said Joseph Bucko. "There's no doubt we are going to have an awesome season."

For Amanda Rawson, 26, of Dudley, Friday's in-stadium practice was the first time she's been at Gillette Stadium to see the Patriots in person.

"I'm having a wonderful time," she said. "I think it's fantastic the Patriots do stuff like this. It's a really great summer night to come out and enjoy the stadium and see how the team looks. As a fan, it's really nice to be here and watch the team up close and personal."

As for the upcoming season, Rawson is looking forward to seeing how the younger players develop this season.

"It's always really exciting to watch younger players step on the field and see what they can do," she said. "I really want to see how the defense does this year and see if the young wide receivers can develop."

After practice, Belichick said he enjoys the environment of the in-stadium event.

"Always nice to be out with the fans of Foxborough and our season ticket holders," Belichick told reporters. "[There's] a lot of energy in the stadium. I think everybody enjoys the environment. It's good for us."