In the sprawling backwoods a short drive from their home for the week at Deutsche Bank Park, the Patriots practice at the DFB Campus in Frankfurt, Germany on Friday afternoon.
After they borrowed the New England Revolution's practice facilities for a friendly against the United States Men's National Team last month, the German Football Association returned the favor with the Patriots practicing at the DFB ahead of Sunday's game against the Colts.
The state-of-the-art facility was tremendous, featuring three-and-a-half grass fields, an indoor football hall, a futsal/multi-purpose hall, and even 33 bedrooms to house the German academy teams. The complex, which created a home for all 14 of Germany's national teams under one roof, is roughly 15 hectares, or over 37 acres.
After arriving early on Friday morning local time, the Patriots had no unexpected absences in their final practice session before Sunday's game. The team ruled out OT Trent Brown (ankle/personal), CB J.C. Jackson (personal), and WR DeVante Parker (concussion) en route to Germany on Thursday, and those were the only three absences at practice on Friday.
A chipper yet jet-lagged head coach Bill Belichick answered questions about Brown and Jackson's situations before practice began. Belichick said the decision for Brown not to make the trip was about "both" the undisclosed personal reason and his ankle injury. Following an uncharacteristically poor performance against the Dolphins, Brown, who was limping badly in the post-game locker room in Miami, also sat out last week's loss to the Commanders.
With the Patriots heading into the bye week after the Germany game, Brown will have a few weeks to recover from his injuries. However, the personal matter that the team cited on this week's injury report remains unknown. With one more elevation remaining from the practice squad, the expectation is that veteran Conor McDermott will start at left tackle in Brown's place. If the Pats top left tackle can't return after the bye, the team will have to sign McDermott to the 53-man roster for him to be active for games, assuming he does get the nod this week.
Belichick also indicated earlier in the week that OL Mike Onwenu will remain at right tackle for the foreseeable future, so it's looking likely that the Patriots will have the same starting offensive line as last week: LT Conor McDermott, LG Cole Strange, C David Andrews, RG Sidy Sow, and RT Mike Onwenu.
Along with fielding questions on Brown, Belichick gave a brief answer on Jackson's situation, declining to comment about the nature of the Patriots cornerback's absence. Belichick did say he expects Jackson to be available after the bye week.
According to reports this week, Jackson is not with the team in Frankfurt because he missed curfew the night before last week's home game against Washington. After playing a large role since returning to the Patriots via trade, Jackson didn't enter the game until the Commanders third offensive drive. There were also reports that Jackson's role was reduced due to poor performance. In the end, Jackson played 68% of the snaps last Sunday.
On film, Jackson has had some shaky moments both as the targeted defender in coverage and away from the football. Jackson was targeted a team-high nine times against the Dolphins in Week 8, allowing 94 receiving yards into his coverage, two touchdowns, and a defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone that led to another Miami score. The Pats CB has also had some coverage breakdowns away from the ball, including several reps where it looked like he was playing a different coverage than the rest of the defense. Due to on-field performance and off the field issues, Jackson's return to the Patriots hasn't gone as planned.
Projected starting cornerback Jack Jones also appeared to be benched for the first quarter against the Commanders, with reports surfacing that the second-year CB also missed curfew before the team played Washington. This is not the first disciplinary issue the young cornerback has had dating back to college, where he transferred from USC to Arizona State due to off-field issues and then was suspended by the Patriots to end his rookie season.
Jones was present for Friday's practice and looked involved in the brief window opened to the media. With third-year CB Shaun Wade initially starting last week, we'll see if Jack Jones joins Jonathan Jones and Myles Bryant in a full-time capacity on Sunday or if the off-field issues linger into another limited role in the game plan for the 2022 fourth-round pick.
The last update from Frankfurt was rookie WR Kayshon Boutte's involvement during media access to practice. With the Patriots going over third down situations, Boutte was very involved on offense, while Belichick said it was "trending in the right direction" for the rookie receiver.
After it seemed that Boutte would be active last week, it was surprising that the sixth-rounder was inactive for the game. With the Pats still missing veteran DeVante Parker, and second-year receiver Tyquan Thornton and former first-rounder Jalen Reagor struggling vs. the Commanders, it's as good a time as any to see what Boutte can do in a game setting.
When the Patriots arrived in Frankfurt on Friday morning, players were told not to nap to adjust their body clocks after the long overnight flight from Boston. Instead, some players said they got breakfast, went to meetings, and then headed to the practice facility.
Although we like to discuss the ins and outs of the football team here, the Patriots first battle is with the six-hour time difference from Boston to Frankfurt. Many players adjusted ahead of time, including quarterback Mac Jones, who said he went to bed earlier this week to adjust.
The Patriots hope that a change of scenery will lead to a better performance as they try to snap a two-game losing streak against the Colts on Sunday.