'Twas the day before Christmas and all through Gillette Stadium, the Patriots were wrapping up their preparation for a huge divisional game against the Buffalo Bills. With the big day falling on a Saturday it will provide a brief opportunity for players to celebrate with their families before heading back to the stadium on Christmas afternoon for their final meetings before Sunday's contest.
"It's an important day for our families and for our kids, it's part of life," said Bill Belichick on Friday morning. "I think there's definitely a balance to it. It's a little different week than any week during the year. Thanksgiving has a little relevance to it but Christmas falls on a different day every year so it's a little bit different.
"I've been in the league and been through however many Christmases, we all know what we're here for, and at the same time there's another part of life that goes on that's important too. "
Jalen Mills didn't mind the Saturday schedule, pointing out how well it lines up with the usual Christmas drill.
"When it comes to Christmas, I think it's all about the morning," said Mills after the Patriots practiced. "As a kid growing up, you want to open up all the presents and have fun and have food, and then late in the evening everybody's usually chilling, there's probably a football game on or something."
Despite the holiday, the Patriots appeared locked in on the game throughout the week, with loud, vocal players during the brief windows that reporters are allowed to observe. Coming off the loss to the Colts, where the tenor at practice was called out by quarterback Mac Jones, the Patriots know what is on the line against the Bills.
"It's balance and working things out the best you can but knowing we have a big game, a huge matchup, divisional game with Buffalo," said Belichick. "We've worked hard and put a lot into the season and there's a lot riding on this game. We all want to do the best we can at it and still try to balance some other things this week."
The Patriots moved their final practice of the week inside Gillette Stadium and it was a festive Christmas Eve stretching session as holiday music played over the PA. Attendance remained the same as it had been all week, with receivers Nelson Agholor (concussion) and Kendrick Bourne (Reserve/COVID-19) both missing along with running back Rhamondre Stevenson who has been battling an illness all week.
The Bills will have their own COVID-19 issues in this game as well with receiver Gabriel Davis joining Cole Beasley on the reserve list on Friday. Both unvaccinated players will be out, dealing a significant blow to the Bills' passing attack.