DEL MAR, Calif. –** The weather seems to be mirroring the mood.
A week in sunny Southern California? In early December? After a trip to frigid Green Bay and its infamous snowy tundra?!
Sign us up!
That must have been what the Patriots thought when the NFL schedule came out in the spring and New England was slated to visit the Packers and Chargers in consecutive weekends after Thanksgiving. The club was already going to be a third of the way across the country when it went to Wisconsin, so, it only made sense to continue the journey west to thaw out, get the body clocks adjusted to the three-hour time difference, and get a good week of on-field work in ideal conditions.
Yet, after leaving cold, grey-and-white Green Bay late Sunday after losing a close one to the Packers, the Patriots arrived in San Diego to continued grey skies and precipitation – albeit in the form of rain and not snow. High temps, since the team touched down and settled in their hotel on the outskirts of the city, have been unseasonably chilly in the mid-to-upper 60s.
"I think we're obviously disappointed," co-captain Matthew Slater said about the most recent loss shortly after arriving at the team's hotel outside San Diego, "but I think it's important for us to rally around each other. And look, we still have a lot to play for. We still kind of control our own destiny here, so we just have to bounce back and be mentally tough at this time and I think we'll be able to do that."
Monday was a fairly typical work day for the players and coaches, breaking down their Green Bay film, getting treatment, and slowing getting acclimated to their temporary home for the next several days. There may have been a little extra down time, and a number of players took advantage of that Monday night by heading north to Los Angeles for some fun. Tuesday was an off day for them, as is normally the case in an NFL week.
The Patriots could be excused for feeling a little low after dropping their first game since Week 4. Come Wednesday, however, it'll be back to business. The Patriots will head down to the University of California San Diego for three straight days of practices.
Put the Packers loss behind them, and look ahead to their next challenge: the 8-4 Chargers.
"I think it is a good opportunity to be together as a team: players, coaches, young players, veteran players, offense, defense, so forth," head coach Bill Belichick told media on a Tuesday conference call. "I think it's a good environment for us to prepare for the game and a good opportunity to spend a little bit of extra time together, however that exactly works out.
"Hopefully, it will be all in a positive way for our team and that we have a great week of preparation for the Chargers, which is what we're here for and that's what our focus is. But as a byproduct of that, if it's teambuilding and opportunities to build relationships within the team, I think that's good too."
The club has been through this process twice before. In 2008, the Patriots had two such weeks of work in Northern California when they had four road games against Pacific time zone teams. Schedule makers did the team a favor by slotting those contests in back-to-back weeks in October and December. It worked well back then, as the Patriots went 3-1 in those four games.
"The big thing," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels noted, "is you get an opportunity to save yourself a little rest. You're in a hotel, so during the course of the day you're working, and then as a coach you just go up when your day is done and go to sleep instead of driving home, driving back, and obviously we save ourselves the flight later in the week. I think you get acclimated to the time change pretty seamlessly early in the week, so by the time the weekend comes and you're getting ready to play the game, it's not something that you're trying to adjust to or adapt to.
"I think that it's really an opportunity to have a week where you kind of bond a little bit more. We're with each other a lot anyways, but now we're here together every day of the week, all day, eating each meal together. We have an opportunity to maybe just spend a little bit of down time later in the week with one another – players, coaches – and it's just something that gives you an opportunity to clear some of the other distractions away and just put your focus solely on what you need to do this week to try to do your best on game day. It's been something we've enjoyed doing in the past."
"I think it's an opportunity," remarked Slater, "for us to clear our minds, spend a lot of time together and re-focus on the task at hand of playing the Chargers this week. I think you're right, it is kind of a team building experience so hopefully we can make the most of it."
Meteorologists continue to call for wet weather on Wednesday, although the San Diego area is not getting hit nearly as hard as the rest of California. The Golden State is virtually engulfed by a massive rain storm that is giving officials cause for concern for mudslides and flooding. As the week goes on, however, the forecasts show improving weather, with the best possibly coming Sunday when the Patriots meet the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.
McDaniels not biting on Gators
As the Patriots woke up on the West Coast Monday, media reports surfaced that McDaniels was being "vetted" by the University of Florida for the Gators' vacant head coaching position.
McDaniels, also on a conference call with reporters back east, was asked directly about those reports. He insisted he was not being distracted from his current job responsibilities.
"Not really. I really don't even honestly have any idea about that rumor," McDaniels maintained. "I mean, I heard it, but I have nothing to add to it. My focus is solely on the Chargers and getting our team ready to go this week on offense and trying to do the best thing I can.
"You're right, it's a time of year where [job opportunities come up] quite a bit, and I've been through it before. It's just, keep your focus where it belongs, which is on the next opponent, and we've got plenty to work on and get prepared for because this is a really good defense we're facing."