Every NFL team gets a free weekend off at some point during the season. New England was fortunate this year that its bye came at the exact mid-point, Week 9.
The 7-1 Patriots could rest a bit easier knowing that after eight games, they owned the best record in the AFC and shared the league's best mark with the Dallas Cowboys. Now, though, it's back to the grind to close out the remaining eight games on the regular season schedule.
"I feel good. Ready to roll," declared DE Chris Long.
"Rested up. It was good. It came at a good point in the season," echoed WR Chris Hogan. "Now we get ready for the second half. We've got a big game coming up Sunday night. It's easy to get excited for something like that. We'll spend this week preparing ourselves."
"Yeah, it was nice to get a little time to watch some football and spend time with family," DE Rob Ninkovich acknowledged. "So, now it's back to work."
"Everyone needs a break," Hogan added. "Guys' bodies, it's tough to hold up for the entire season. Those four or five days that you're able to get off your feet and relax, take your mind off football for a couple days, I think it's good. Now, we're re-energized and ready to tackle this whole second part of the season."
On Sunday night, New England will host the Seattle Seahawks, who played just last night against the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football. Players, and even head coach Bill Belichick, admitted that they tuned in at least partially to get a jump-start on preparations for their next opponent.
But the real work came today, when the team returned to the practice field for the first time since last Wednesday. After such a long layoff, the coaches decided to have the players practice in full pads to get a good day of work in. Every player except rookie defensive back Jonathan Jones suited up. That included running back Dion Lewis (left knee), who remains on PUP but is eligible to be activated at any time before next Thursday.
Offensive linemen Sebastian Vollmer and Tre' Jackson, the team's two other PUP players, have not been spotted since the PUP activation window opened a couple of weeks ago.
Exercising civic rights
This being election day across the United States, it was noteworthy that presidential candidate Donald Trump, stumping in New Hampshire yesterday, revealed that he'd received a letter of support from Belichick and claimed QB Tom Brady voted for him.
This news prompted some intrepid reporters to poll some of the other Patriots on whether they had voted yet.
"That is the plan today," Hogan stated.
"When we get out tonight after practice," special teams co-captain Matthew Slater announced. "My mom, my wife – I got a text today to make sure I vote. I think too many people, especially as an African-American in America, too many people had to sacrifice and die for me to have the right to vote, so I definitely have to exercise that."
Others weren't as eager as Slater or Hogan to take advantage of their rights as American citizens.
"I'm not voting," Long insisted. "Really, that's not a conversation I want to go down."
"I am going to keep the political stuff out of these questions right now," echoed Ninkovich, adding with a grin, "We're focused on Seattle."