COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – It's a business trip, but not entirely without some pleasure.
All this week, the Patriots are basing their football operations not in Foxborough, but an hour and 10 minutes south of Denver, in the quaint mountain town of Colorado Springs. The team stayed in Colorado following Sunday night's win over the Broncos so they could continue adjusting to the high altitude. Their next game, this Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, will be played in Mexico City, which, at 7,382 feet, rests a full 1,300 feet higher than Colorado Springs (6,035 feet).
Dubbed "Olympic City USA," Colorado Springs is home to the United States Olympic Training Center, where many current and aspiring Team USA athletes eventually come to prepare for the quadrennial Winter and Summer Games. On their NFL-mandated day off Tuesday, the Patriots were offered a chance to tour the nearby 35-acre campus.
More than a couple of dozen players and staff – including safety/co-captain Devin McCourty, running back Rex Burkhead, center David Andrews, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, fullback James Develin, and player personnel director Nick Caserio – were escorted around the various training facilities for two hours.
The tour began with a brief introductory video presentation that gave an overview of the campus and what takes place here. Then, the fun began as the Patriots were taken inside the major structures, where a number of Olympic hopefuls were hard at work.
It quickly became evident that even though the reigning Super Bowl champs are professional athletes who've attained the ultimate goal in their sport, the Patriots came away impressed not only by the Olympic and Team USA spirit that prevails at the Training Center, but also by the sophisticated training technology used by their Olympic colleagues.
Many players eagerly asked questions of the Olympic staff that accompanied them throughout the afternoon. They clearly enjoyed seeing – and in some cases, testing out – the Olympic equipment and facilities. The giant weight room, basketball courts, and boxing centers were among the most popular venues.
One of the highlights of the visit came when the team entered the gymnastics building. The Patriots, most of whom are giant men, found themselves awestruck by 5-6, 141-pound Sam Mikulak, a member of Team USA who competed in the 2012 London and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
For a few minutes, Mikulak explained how the Training Center is essential for him and his fellow Olympians to prepare for the Games. Afterward, he enthusiastically granted a Patriots' request to show off one of his routines. Mikulak promptly hopped on a pommel horse and wowed the team with his lightning-quick maneuvers.
The final stop was in the aquatic center. There, at least one player expressed interest in diving into the water, while another wanted to know which lane the most decorated Olympian of all time, Team USA's Michael Phelps, used when he came to Colorado Springs.
Tomorrow, the Patriots get back to business when they return to their own training schedule. They'll utilize the nearby U.S. Air Force Academy's football facilities for practices over the next three days.
As important as it is for New England to maintain its work routine out here in Colorado, it's also a rare opportunity to enjoy some personal time together. In the latter regard, Tuesday proved a success, as they spent some quality time taking advantage of a unique experience, having some laughs, and getting to know one another better in the process.