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At preseason midpoint, Patriots begin transition

There's always an element of truth to any cliché, including the one that says NFL teams place more of an emphasis on the third preseason game than the other three. It's the week when training camps, as fans know them, come to an end. No more open-to-the-public practices or joint sessions with other teams. It's as close to a regular season vibe as you'll get until next month.

Technically, it's still training camp for the players and coaches, and will be until the preseason game slate concludes next week, but there's clearly a different feel to the proceedings here at Gillette Stadium. The reigning Super Bowl champions returned home this weekend after a weeklong sojourn that took them from joint practices with the Texans in West Virginia to the south of Texas for preseason contest number two.

Now, it's back to business in familiar confines for a few days before departing for Detroit later this week. As Burkhead alluded to, the Lions host the Patriots Friday night at Ford Field. There, Bill Belichick's squad hopes to notch its first victory of 2017 after dropping its first two preseason tilts.

"Getting ready for Detroit and what we have to do to get ready for Detroit… scouting report, game plan, film, situational awareness, individual cutup films, things like that," the head coach said of his team's plans for this week. "Good opportunity to work on that and move ahead. Obviously, there's a lot of things we need to work on based on the first two preseason games, but we need to transition into sort of a regular season schedule. Not there yet, but it's one step."

The Patriots didn't practice Monday, but while much of the rest of America was outside looking up at the solar eclipse, Belichick's players spent a considerable amount of time watching film and studying their upcoming opponent (although they did take a midafternoon break o get a glimpse of the astronomical anomoly).

Several Patriots players ventured out to view Monday's solar eclipse.

"The Lions have a great defense, get to the ball very well," observed running back Rex Burkhead, who scored against Houston Saturday night. "We had kind of a long plane ride back [from Texas], so, just catching up on some sleep there and making sure we focused on this week… Have to prepare like it's a regular season or postseason game."

"It's football. There's always a sense of urgency," declared tight end James O'Shaughnessy. "Every day you have to have a sense of urgency to learn what they're throwing at you, along with improving your own personal fundamentals or whatever aspect of the game you need to.

"To me, it seems that we take every week the same, whether it be preseason or regular season: Take it one day at a time, one step at a time. I'd like to believe everybody's preparation is the same, no matter what."

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While all-out, padded joint practices are over, the Patriots and Lions will get together at some point on Thursday to conduct a collaborative walkthrough practice as a final on-field preparation for their game the next day.

"I like the joint practices. I do," Burkhead admitted. "Just seeing some different guys, going against different competition on other teams. It's always fun and exciting, but it can't be that way the whole season, so, let's get into a game plan this week and be ready to go on Friday."

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