SAN DIEGO –** Like Tom Brady often does at the line of scrimmage, Bill Belichick called an audible Wednesday.
His Patriots were scheduled to practice at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), but at the last moment, the head coach decided to transfer the day's work to nearby University of San Diego (USD). When asked about the change in venue at his daily press briefing, Belichick gave little in the way of explanation.
"We've used multiple facilities as part of this trip and it's all worked out well," he said.
That seemed to be the general consensus among players as they arrived on the USD campus on another cloudy, rainy day in Southern California.
"It's different. Just the location, what we're used to," safety/co-captain Devin McCourty noted, adding with a grin, "It's cool… I'm not complaining about the warm weather."
Check out practice and media access photos as the team prepares for its upcoming game against the Chargers in San Diego.
The Patriots have had the past two days, for the most part, to themselves as they got their body clocks adjusted to the three-hour time zone difference. The training camp-like atmosphere at the team hotel just north of San Diego has helped the team come together after dropping a disappointing decision to the Packers in Green Bay this past Sunday.
But to a man, the players seemed anxious to get back to work to prepare for the Chargers.
"We have to get as close to our normal routine as we possibly can," observed special teams co-captain Matthew Slater. "Obviously, the scenery is different, but our approach has to be the same, our preparation… So far, so good. But we have a ways to go. It's up to us to respond, press the reset button in regards to last week, have a good week of preparation, and hopefully perform well on Sunday."
"I think it's great," remarked cornerback Darrelle Revis. "This is really thought out by our organization and Bill and the coaching staff, doing this after such a big game in Green Bay. Guys were hanging out, sitting by the pool, relaxing, just being around each other. This is a crucial time in our season, too, for us to continue to have each other's back as a team.
"I think we're excited, upbeat, especially after meetings this morning. Just can't be distracted by being out here. As much as we're in warm weather, we still have to focus on the task at hand in San Diego."
"We found some time to do some fun things," McCourty continued. "It's always fun to kind of be back in a college setting, where we're with each other 24/7. I think it was good for us. The team bonded well. It's a team that enjoys being around each other. We had a good time. Now it's all focus and business. Our focus is what we need to do to stop this [Chargers] offense. When you come off a loss, it's even more important to zero in and have a good game the following week."
"We have to remind ourselves," Slater stressed, "that we're not on vacation. That's the biggest thing. Guys get away from home base and you can get a little lax and lose a bit of your focus. I'm not saying it's got to be business 24 hours around the clock, but at the same time, we're not out here for fun, leisure, et cetera. We're out here to take care of our business. We'll enjoy the week together as we work toward a common goal."
The entire state of California has been deluged by a Pacific storm since the team arrived overnight Sunday. McCourty was asked if he and his teammates brought the unusually heavy rainfall with them.
"Yeah I think so," he joked. "Maybe we'll bring snow tomorrow."
A steady, light drizzle made for a slick surface on USD stadium's grass field, where the Patriots conducted their practice. Only two players were not with their teammates on the field for stretching: wide receiver Aaron Dobson, who injured a hamstring against the Packers, and linebacker Chris White. He sustained an ankle injury on Thanksgiving and has not suited up since. Long snapper Danny Aiken (concussion), who was inactive against Green Bay, took part in practice wearing a red (non-contact) jersey.
New England brought its entire roster out to San Diego for the week, including its practice squad, to ensure that the team could do everything it wanted to do in terms of on-field work.
An endorsement for Seau
The late Junior Seau is among several nominees for this year's Pro Football Hall of Fame class. Seau, a San Diego native who spent the final years of his NFL career with the Patriots, enjoyed a close relationship with head coach Bill Belichick, coming out of retirement twice to re-join Belichick's Patriots.
Belichick was asked by a member of the San Diego media corps for his thoughts on Seau and his Hall of Fame prospects.
"I loved Junior and his family. I was out here for the funeral and it was very emotional. Nobody loved the game more than Junior did. Nobody would be more deserving to be in the Hall of Fame than Junior Seau. [He's the] all-time leader in tackling, but more than stats, his love of the game, his passion for the game, and the high level that he played at at a very difficult position. I mean, him, Clay Matthews [Jr.], guys to play as long as they did at that position as well as he did is phenomenal.
"He is so deserving [of induction into the Hall of Fame]," Belichick declared. "I hope it happens."
The 2015 Class will be announced during Super Bowl week next month in Arizona.
Bummed about Bieber
You may have seen the widely circulated photos of several Patriots hanging out with pop music star Justin Bieber Monday night at an L.A. Clippers game. Not every player on the roster was so honored to be in the pictures however.
"I missed that. I'm kind of mad at Shane [Vereen] and Akeem [Ayers], being LA guys. They didn't invite me," McCourty joked.
What about Slater?
"No comment," he stated softly, before conceding with a smile, "I enjoy his work."