With the 2021 Patriots ready to take the field on Wednesday to kick off training camp, head coach Bill Belichick and three of the team's longest-tenured veterans spoke with the media to help set the stage after a busy offseason.
"Good to be back here and be starting training camp and starting the 2021 season," said Belichick via a Webex video conference on Tuesday morning. "We're all excited to get going. Obviously, we have a long, long way to go. We'll just take it one step at a time, but it's good to get the players in that have been in for a few days here, the rookies, and the quarterbacks, some of the other veteran players that are here, and we'll have the full complement of the team come in today."
Though this year's training camp is shaping up to be more like one before the COVID-19 pandemic, a slower ramp-up period will continue to be part of the protocol, as Belichick pointed out the initial days will be more of an extension of minicamp's teaching period. Next week, things will ramp up in pads and the competition will really begin.
"Really this is a continuation of the spring," continued Belichick. "It's kind of like the minicamp days were. We're obviously not in pads here for several days. The scheduling is pretty much what it was in the spring during that minicamp period. So we'll really be continuing what we did there until next week and kind of turn the corner and get into a little different tempo in practice."
"Overall, as a player, mentality-wise training camp is kinda like, whatever it is, I gotta be ready to go," said Devin McCourty, dismissing the tempered start to camp for the second year in a row, while recalling nine-straight padded training camp practice and putting his trust in the coaching staff to do what's best to prepare the team.
One thing is clear, as it always is for training camp under Belichick and the Patriots -- it's all about competition and resetting the standard for both the players and coaches.
"Every year is pretty much a clean slate for me with everybody," said Belichick. "Myself, other coaches that have a lot of experience, players that have a lot of experience, we all have to start all over again, new players, how fast, and what kind of impact they'll have. There's really no way of knowing or predicting, you just have to take it day by day and see how it comes along. Some young players start fast and fizzle out. Some start slow and come on strong. Some start fast and keep it at that level. Some players never really have a big impact. I'm not really big on the expectations. We'll go out there and continue as I said the process we started in the spring and see how all the players and our team comes along and how it all fits together."
"We gotta attack each other, it can't really be a bunch of nice guys out here, we've got to get better," said McCourty of the anticipated level of competition in camp, as it's just as much about making your teammates better as it is getting yourself prepared.
Despite the heavy level of competition that is coming, building team chemistry is still a vital component of the coming weeks.
"In training camp is where you build team camaraderie," said David Andrews of what the team can accomplish early in camp before the intensity ramps up. "'This is what we want to be about, this is the team we want to be', this is where you get to know guys because you're spending 12 hours a day with each other."
The younger players would do well to take note of the veteran's short-term focus as the grind begins.
"You've gotta try to enjoy the process, you can't take anything for granted and make the most of it," said Matthew Slater.
Check out photos of the Patriots reporting to Gillette Stadium for the start of Training Camp on Tuesday, July 27, 2021.