With the way Head Coach Bill Belichick tinkered with the roster almost immediately upon his arrival in Foxborough, there weren't many questions about who was in charge of the Patriots. After just two days of voluntary mini-camp, any lingering doubts are surely nothing more than a distant memory at this point.
Belichick and his staff have worked hard to place their fingerprints on the team and the message seems to have gotten through. And judging by the players' reaction, it's been well received.
"[Belichick] expects a certain amount of effort from a guy and you can kind of just feel his presence everywhere, even if he's not around," center Damien Woody said. "You just want to go out there and give a maximum effort. It was like that with Pete [Carroll], too, but he was a little more laid back and with Belichick his personality is almost unknown. He's friendly, but he seems to distance himself from the team a bit, which I feel a head coach should do to a certain degree."
As the players continued running through drills during the morning practice, Belichick tried to get the players, particularly the rookies, acclimated to their new surroundings. The process involves much more than simply implementing a new system, which has obviously taken up much of the off-the-field portion of mini-camp.
"I think it's progressing," Belichick said. "It's still a process we have to work through. One thing we're trying to do is get on a schedule. We're trying to do the same thing repetitively so the players can get a sense of what we want, what's going to happen next, how to pace themselves and the performance that we're looking for in different drills. We're trying to get into a routine so the players can feel more comfortable and make things run more smoothly."
While the rookies were busy getting oriented with Patriots football, Belichick felt veterans like linebacker Ted Johnson benefited by simply participating in the on-field drills. Johnson, who is trying to overcome his second torn biceps muscle said he feels as good as he has in a long time and as part of the healing process, enrolled in a Yoga class. "I'm much more centered now," he joked while looking upwards and pushing his hands together as if praying. "Someone told me to try it," he added, refusing to disclose who that person was.
Belichick believes Johnson's inactivity the last two seasons increased the importance of the mini-camp session. "Ted's worked hard to be out there every snap and that's exactly what he needs. As the middle linebacker, he's sort of the quarterback for the defense. Things that happen on the line, coverage changes … basically everything that goes on somehow involves the middle linebacker. He's taken a lot of reps and he needs to get on the football field to see formations and see pass patterns and see running plays and react to them and hopefully these sessions will be good for him."
It's apparent that they've been good for everyone else as well.