In an offseason dominated by off-the-field news, this week's developments brought some much-needed relief. Quarterback Tom Brady led a considerable number of his teammates, including many of the recently drafted rookies, in a series of two-hour workouts at Boston College.
They were forced to do so on their own, away from Gillette Stadium and without supervision from Patriots coaches, because of the continued lockout conditions that are in effect across the NFL.
Now that the Patriots' three-day pseudo-camp is complete, the question is:
Were the player-only practices beneficial to the team?
Read the arguments from the writers of Patriots Football Weekly, then cast your vote in our Debate Friday poll.
Paul Perillo says, "No ..."
I'll admit up front, the workouts the team conducted this week couldn't hurt. But I'm not so sure they'll be all that beneficial in any regard other than perhaps building team camaraderie – and Bill Belichick said as much recently when he wondered what could be gained by such workouts in a piece in the Boston Herald.
The offseason is generally when the coaches are able to install the team's system as the players are taught terminology, alignments, adjustments and other valuable information that allows training camp to consist of repetition and preparation for the season. Coaches use this valuable time to teach in meetings and offer film review of the just completed practice. The players in turn are able to see what they did and learn from their mistakes.
With players-only workouts not including any watchful eyes from the coaches, they don't get the opportunity to watch and learn. Therefore, any meaningful benefit from the practices – especially considering the limited number – is limited as a result.
If the players spent several weeks working together and building some timing and familiarity with one another, then I could see some tangible advantages emanating from such work even without coaches being present. But three quick practices isn't likely going to help much in the timing department, particularly with little structure to those workouts.
Like I said, getting together and doing something is better than nothing, but I just don't see the events of the past week making much of a difference down the road – and Belichick seems to agree.
Erik Scalavino says, "Yes ..."
Well, Belichick might not think they were productive, but the players themselves certainly seem to think otherwise. The players who spoke with reporters following the workouts were well worth the time and effort.
Yes, team-building and camaraderie is an obvious benefit. But there are others. There's the psychological benefit, first and foremost. Just the fact that players were on a football field, doing what they love to do, together as a team, is a welcome change from all the legal wrangling that's been going on since March 12, when the lockout began. The sense of normalcy and structure that this week provided helps remind the players what it is they're fighting for at the bargaining table.
Although the workouts were conducted in shorts and t-shirts, without any pads, the basic nature of the drills and activities were still-football related, and helped refresh in the minds of the veterans the terminology, cadences, and general vocabulary that they need to communicate with one another on the field. This is particularly beneficial for the rookies, who now at least have some idea of what to expect when training camp eventually opens.
Where these sessions have the most positive effect, though, is on offense. Timing between a quarterback and his receivers is paramount to any passing attack, and often takes more time to develop than other aspects of the offense. With a group of receivers so young and inexperienced as New England's, these past three days are enormously important. This can't be understated, even if the results aren't immediately obvious to those of us who must observe from afar.
Even if the lockout remains in place for the foreseeable future and the Patriots don't get together for more of these informal workouts, these past three days were well worth it.
Your turn! Cast your vote in our Debate Friday poll.