The Patriots returned to the dark, dreary, moist outdoor practice fields behind Gillette Stadium in shoulder pads and helmets for a spirited session Monday night as the team continues to prepare for Saturday's second preseason game in Cincinnati. As was the case last week in preparation for the Eagles, much of the practice work took place with a scout unit running the coming opponent's plays off cards and a number of players wearing yellow mesh jerseys with the numbers of corresponding Bengals players.
The difference in this week's pre-game preparation is that the Bengals are a team that the Patriots will also play during the regular season on Dec. 12. That is a scenario that New England faced three times last preseason with the Eagles, Giants and Redskins, and one that puts a little more emphasis on the exhibition game prep work.
"This is a big week for us," Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said. "We have our preparation for Cincinnati and that is a team that we play in the regular season, so it will take on a little bit more focus and I think it is a little bit more important than a preseason game where you don't play that team in the regular season. You really try to spend a little more time on, not only their scheme, but their personnel and try to let the players get a feel for what that is going to be like the second time around as much as possible. I know it is not the same, but it is a good preparation opportunity."
But that specific Bengals preparation also has to be balanced with the general work that the team needs at this point in the preseason and the installation that must be completed before the games start to count in the standings.
"This is also the week where we still have a lot of things that were left over from last week, the first couple of weeks of training camp before the opener, that we didn't fully get installed or some cases didn't get the chance to cover at all," Belichick said. "We still have some installation left and some things that we want to finish adding so our playbook, so to speak, is completely installed and we have a good background on the things that we think we are going to need to do at some point during the season and at the same time work on Cincinnati and prepare for that game Saturday night, the whole playing on the road and that whole process and getting that smoothed out and being the visiting team and the preparations and the routine that goes with that. That is kind of the outline for the week."
Nice to meet you
Prior to the start of practice veteran linebacker Tedy Bruschi called the team together and introduced newly signed rookie Benjamin Watson in the center of the gathered players. After the players all waived to the rookie, Bruschi sent Watson to the sidelines in front of a set of bleachers so that the 32nd pick in April's draft could vociferously introduce himself to his new fans.
"My name is Benjamin Watson. I am a tight end from the University of Georgia."
Monday afternoon notes
As they did a year ago, the grounds crew rotated the two practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for the afternoon session to cut down on the wear and tear to the turf. The re-lined fields and rotated goalposts now run parallel to the grassy hill and perpendicular to the adjacent field house, and will likely remain that way through the end of camp. … Dexter Reid and Patrick Pass worked as the gunners with the first punt team during a special teams segment. Guss Scott worked as the up-back in the same drill. … After sitting out the morning session, Roman Phifer returned for the afternoon. … Rohan Davey and Daniel Graham hooked up on a nice pattern down the numbers in front of Terrell Buckley in a seven-on-seven drill. … Cody Scates, Jim Miller, P.K. Sam, Christian Morton, Je'Rod Cherry, Cedric Cobbs, Andy Mignery, Ted Johnson, Matt Chatham, Rosevelt Colvin, Tom Ashworth, Bethel Johnson, J.J. Stokes, David Givens, Christian Morton and Keith Traylor. … Dana Stubblefield was once again absent from the practice fields. … An all-out melee broke out between the scout offense and the first defense in the end zone during a seven-on-seven drill. Up to two dozen players appeared to jump in on what was clearly the biggest fight of this summer's camp. And while it was difficult to see what started the altercation, Dan Klecko and Michael Jennings looked to be near the center of the action. … The team gathered on the far end of the wet practice field for what looked from afar to be a little good-natured fun with the younger players. After water was added to the grassy strip some of younger players were sent sliding along the grass in a little slip and slide type action. … The team will return to the practice fields for a single session on Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. … The NFL Network reached a multi-year agreement with Comcast on Monday for the cable provider to carry the channel as part of Comcast's Digital Cable service. The NFL Network will be added to Comcast's Digital Plus lineup for the majority of the company's more than eight million customers beginning this month. … NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue sent a memorandum to all 32 teams on Monday outlining new guidelines for the league's injury information. Teams will no longer be able to issue such vague injury reports as "leg." Now injuries must be reported in more specific terms such as "ankle, knee, thigh or calf." Teams will also be required to inform the local media when any player misses any portion of 11-on-11 team work in practice on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday during the season. Also, a mandatory Friday update of team injury reports has been added to the policy. The changes in the policy came about after a review of the injury information by the NFL Competition Committee and are expected to be strictly enforced and subject to disciplinary action.