ALLEN PARK, Mich. – For a second consecutive day, the Detroit Lions hosted the reigning Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots for joint training camp practices. Over the past decade, such collaborative efforts have become the norm around the NFL at this time of year, but the Patriots went without any joint practice partners last summer.
This year, they have two (they'll be in Nashville later next week with the Titans), and are scheduled to finish up work with the Lions here in Michigan on Wednesday. That practice session, however, is likely to be more of a typical day-before-a-game walkthrough, meaning the most significant activity took place over the past two days, when players suited up in full pads.
"I thought [Monday] was a productive day for us," head coach Bill Belichick told reporters prior to Tuesday's session. "We certainly learned a lot going through the film. Saw a lot of good match-ups, good opportunities for us to match up with a lot of different players. Schematically, we saw quite a few different things. The Lions gave us problems in a number of different areas that we can go to the film and correct, adjust and so forth. Really good, competitive practice. I think we'll get the same thing today."
That seemed to be the consensus of the handful of Patriots players polled afterward, who seemed pleased with the work they put in with the Lions.
"Oh, I think it helped," proclaimed running back Sony Michel, "especially with seeing things we need to work on, executing. The Lions are a great team. They brought a lot of physicality out here. I think we got some good work, got better.
"Joint practices give you a chance to see where your team is, help you be competitive, because you're going against guys that are trying to take your head off. Going against your teammates over and over can get redundant at times, but going against another great team is special."
"I think we all got a lot better today," observed linebacker Dont'a Hightower. "Obviously, nothing's perfect in football. There are a few plays we all would like to have back, but I think all in all we're in the right spot. Everybody's working, working to get better and you can't ask for more than that.
"Collectively, everybody's trying to hold each other accountable. That word gets tossed around a lot because we do a lot – whether on offense, defense, or special teams – we do a lot. The number one thing, to be one of the 11 guys on that field, is accountability. We're all holding each other to that."
Wednesday's focus is expected to be about fine-tuning any remaining details that need to be addressed in advance of Thursday night's preseason opener for both teams. Regular starters like Michel and Hightower typically don't see much action in the first or second preseason game, but that doesn't mean they aren't looking forward to putting on their game uniforms for the first time this season.
"It'll be the actual first time that we get to show the world as a unit what we've been working on since the spring. Regardless of who's out there," Hightower explained. "Again, we all hold each other accountable. We all know how hard each one of us has worked to get here, whether it's this training camp or going against each other. I think it's just more about being out there, having fun and rooting for one another."
"It's always exciting to get out there and play a football game," Michel maintained. "I treat every game the same, whether it counts or doesn't. It's just a blessing and an opportunity for us to go out there and play football. You've got to take advantage of it."
Check out the best photos from the Patriots and Lions joint practices in Allen Park, Mich. on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019.
LaCosse: 'Practice builds confidence'
Two positions on the Patriots roster that have been under a constant microscope this summer are tight end and wide receiver. The retirement of All-Pro Rob Gronkowski and a thumb injury to Julian Edelman have thus far deprived the Patriots of two of their most high-profile and productive players at their respective positions.
In their absences, younger, less experienced players have had a chance to prove themselves in an effort to win full-time jobs on the 2019 Patriots. Among them, newcomer Matt LaCosse, signed as a veteran free agent during the offseason.
"Yeah, I think myself and every tight end is doing a great job. I think the wide receivers are doing a great job," he told reporters after Tuesday's practice. "We're all just still striving and still building. It doesn't come overnight. It builds over and over, practice after practice. But we're definitely going in the right direction… practice builds our confidence."
LaCosse, who'll turn 27 next month and is in his fourth NFL season, admits he's trying to develop a trust with quarterback Tom Brady to become someone on whom the QB can rely in the passing game.
"No doubt it's an opportunity," LaCosse continued. "He's one of the greats ever to play the game, but it's also an earned opportunity. It's not something Tom or this organization is just going to give you. You have to come in day in and day out and play to the best of your ability."
Buy: Shilique Calhoun – An NFL veteran in his fourth season, the linebacker is in his first Patriots training camp and beginning to see more and more high level opportunities given to him, particularly over the past couple of days of joint practices with Detroit.
Sell: N'Keal Harry – New England's top 2019 draft choice suffered what looked like a hamstring injury to his right leg in the latter stages of Tuesday's practice. The rookie receiver stayed on the field, though, and looked like he took part in conditioning work with the rest of the team at the end of today's session. However, his condition will bear monitoring in the days ahead.
Play of the Day: When the Lions and Patriots engaged in 11-on-11 situational work during the second half of practice, Tom Brady looked for receiver Phillip Dorsett deep downfield. The drive needed to result in a touchdown for the Patriots to "win" this simulated end-of-game scenario. Dorsett beat his defender and hauled in the pass from Brady in the Lions end zone, keeping both feet in bounds as he completed the dramatic scoring play.