As far back as the Patriots' training camp days at Bryant College (now Bryant University) in Smithfield, R.I., New England has engaged in joint practice sessions with various preseason opponents. In those days, the New York Giants were occasional guests here in New England, proving a popular draw not only because of the proximity of the two clubs, but also the star-power the then-Super Bowl-winning Giants carried with them.
More recently, the Patriots resumed the training camp tradition in 2010, hosting the New Orleans Saints for a few days on ensemble sessions here in Foxborough prior to their preseason game at Gillette. Ever since, with the exceptions of 2011, '18, and '20, the Patriots have had at least one joint practice partner, either here or on the road.
The labor lockout of 2011 wasn't resolved until the 11th hour, forcing all NFL teams to forgo joint sessions that summer. In 2018, New England just couldn't work out an agreement with any of its opponents, and last summer, the global pandemic shutdown forced the cancelation of any plans for joint practices.
This year, though, the fun returns when the Patriots travel to Philadelphia in mid-August for a few days of on-field training with the Eagles. Under head coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots have embraced the joint practice opportunity as much as possible because it affords both clubs a chance to evaluate their rosters in controlled, yet extremely competitive environments. Such practices can often be more valuable in terms of productivity, talent evaluation, and personnel experimentation than the preseason games themselves.
For fans, it's also a tremendous benefit to see live-action football in full pads up close, for a fraction of the cost of attending a regular season or even a preseason game.
The Patriots last visited Philly in 2013 for joint sessions before their preseason meeting that summer. It's unclear at this point whether the general public will be allowed to attend those practices, but eight years ago, only a select number of Eagles season ticket holders were granted viewing access at the NovaCare Complex, Philadelphia's team headquarters.
Perhaps this year will be different. As soon as we hear of any further details, we'll be sure to post them here on patriots.com. And of course, if there's any other joint practice news involving New England's other two preseason foes this August, we'll have that for you here as well. For now, though, it's comforting to know that summertime NFL football is looking a lot more like normal again.