The months of waiting and wondering are over. Finally, football has returned to Foxborough.
"Right now, my focus is on the 2018 season," Bill Belichick said in his pre-camp press conference Wednesday morning when asked about various somewhat controversial aspects of the last six months.
It's not time for real game action just yet, or even the key phase of preseason battles, but mandatory practice of the official opening of training camp 2018 on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium is a major first step.
Building on voluntary OTAs and the mandatory mini-camp of the spring, training camp sees the entirety of the 90-man roster come together to begin the true competition that eventually sets the roster and lays the foundation for on-field success or failure.
Make no mistake, with one day to go – mere hours until Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the rest jog up the steps from the locker room to the lush grass fields to be showered with applause from thousands of Patriots fans in attendance – there is one simple goal in New England: winning.
Some coaches talk about winning the day. Which leads to winning weeks. It eventually translates to winning games. Do enough of that and you win your division, then the No. 1 playoff seed. And if everything works out, you compete for a title.
Coming off a Super Bowl loss – New England is attempting to be the first Super Bowl loser to return to the big game since the 1994 Bills. The Patriots are also trying to become the first team since Buffalo (1991-94) to go to three straight Super Bowls.
Of course New England's track record suggests the team will once again be very much in the conversation for a Lombardi Trophy this winter. The Patriots have won the AFC East in each of the last nine seasons and been to the AFC title game seven straight years.
With one day to go until training camp, there is just one goal for all to focus on after one of the more tumultuous offseasons in Patriots history.
"Every year has different challenges, you know? There's some years where, I mean obviously this team has very high expectations. We're trying to win every game. That's what our goals are," Brady said in mini-camp. "I think those things we have a lot of time to work on literally. Figuratively there's a long way to go. We've got a lot of work to do and it's going to be up to us individually to prepare as best we can and then collectively when we come together we do the same."
During an offseason in which the so-called Patriot Way took hits from afar, Belichick made it clear that his program will chug right along into 2018.
"We feel what's important to us is to win. So that's really what we're trying to do," Belichick emphasized during OTAs.
The next step of that process kicks off with training camp opening up Thursday morning at Gillette Stadium.
"Right now training camp is really that main goal," center and team captain David Andrews said.