In a unique change of viewpoint, members of the print and electronic media that regularly cover the Patriots got a chance to participate in a rather candid instructional film session with Bill Belichick today at Gillette Stadium. But before the early afternoon session, 20-plus members of the media also got to step on to the playing field normally manned by elite athletes to participate in a two-hand touch football game that the writers eventually won 28-24 over their electronic counterparts.
While the touch football may have been a good time, and a bit of a dream-like experience for some of the participants with video board highlights and John Rooke's booming announcement of the starting lineups, the real action on the day took place the Patriots team auditorium. Belichick, quite obviously in his most comfortable environment, led a rather candid and entertaining two-hour, film-and diagram-based interactive session. Starting with the premise that the media members were all Sam, or strong side, outside linebackers, the defensive-minded head coach showed the room full of reporters through what players would encounter during a single meeting in training camp.
As Belichick said though, the extreme base 3-4 cover 2 defense that he used throughout his examples would be considered a single scoop of vanilla ice cream when compared to something like the six-flavor, three-topping banana split that players will have to quickly digest starting next week. The start of the session utilized an overhead projection image of different defensive fronts and the formations they would be forced to defend. Belichick then used similar diagrams to show the many different coverage and pass-rushing adjustments that could be made based on opponent formations.
While Belichick took questions throughout, and responded to most with very honest answers, he used the final part of the session to show examples of many of the situations he had previously diagramed. In footage from various practice sessions and regular season games from the last two seasons, the coach highlighted examples of different players doing things both correctly and incorrectly.
While both Belichick and the Patriots PR department asked that the specific calls, adjustments, terminology and quotes not be reported on the unique event due to the potential competitive value of the information, other areas that the coach touched on included on-field communication between players, hand signals, more basic principles of pass coverage techniques, learning styles and time frames for young players, day-of-game coaching and some of the systems he worked in as a young assistant coach. On a whole, nearly every member of the media seemed to enjoy the uniquely interactive session that differed a bit from a similar event the team held a year ago.
Writers pull out tough win
As for the morning football game, the writers utilized a balanced attack that featured recognizable names such as Michael Felger of the Boston Herald, Bill Burt of the Lawrence Eagle Tribune and Patriots Football Weekly's own gridiron warrior, Paul Perillo, to battle back from an early electronic 16-0 lead. The electronic team, wearing blue Patriots jerseys jumped out to the early lead thanks mostly to the nearly unstoppable brother combination of WBZ TV's Steve Burton and CN8's Phil Burton. The duo connected on a bomb to open the scoring in the affair and then added another touchdown on an interception return by Phil.
But the wave of momentum in the game totally changed with the electronic team holding a 24-6 lead late in the first half. The writers scored once to pull the deficit to 24-14 late in the first and then came all the way back for the 28-24 win led by a strong defensive effort by the entire squad, and some "beneficial" penalty calls by the game's two officials, Patriots Football Weekly's Bryan Morry and Metro West Daily News scribe Shane Donaldson.
Wasynczuk discusses camp, advantages of training at Gillette
Patriots senior vice president and chief operating officer Andy Wasynczuk stopped by the media gathering at Gillette Stadium today for a few minutes to discuss the team's move of training camp to the now year round facilities in Foxborough. While he expressed a belief that the move will benefit both fans, players and everyone involved, he cautioned that the new environment will take a bit of getting used to.
One of the focal points that Wasynczuk highlighted was the fact that the practice fields will have bleacher seating for over 4,000 fans, compared to around 1,000 at the former site, Bryant College. It will also offer fans some new views of practice from the sloped area around the fields. But while the facility will likely be better for the fans, Wasynczuk reiterated that the main advantage of the move will lie in the ability to best prepare a football team for the upcoming season. Beds will be placed in areas of the service level for players to nap during down time, the players will have a lounge area to relax and play video games and players will also have the option of returning to the local hotel in which they will be staying if there is sufficient time between meetings and practices.
On a bit of another topic, Wasynczuk pointed to the teams successful track record in avoiding rookie holdouts when questioned on the seven rookies who have yet to sign.
"We've been pretty successful over the years in signing draft picks and that is what we anticipate," Wasynczuk said.
All rookies are expected to be at camp by July 22, the day before the veteran reporting date of July 23. The first open practice at the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium will be at 3:00 p.m. on July 23. It is open to the public free of charge. Because of a more unpredictable practice schedule this year fans are urged to check Patriots.com or call 508-543-1776 to check for practice times and schedule changes. In the case of inclement weather or sloppy practice fields the team will practice on its newly installed artificial FieldTurf practice field and because of space limitations those practices will be closed to the public.