The New England Patriots will continue their march towards the season opener this week, playing their third preseason game at Lambeau Field against the Packers in Green Bay, Wisc. With training camp over, New England will now concentrate its energy on determining the winners of the many position battles on the team as players will get one more shot to prove themselves and sharpen their skills before the first roster reduction date on August 30.
With all of his focus on getting the team ready for the season opener on September 8, Head Coach Bill Belichick and his staff will use the final two preseason games and the next few weeks of practices to get the Patriots into regular-season form.
"Certainly the game performances are important, but so are the practices," said Head Coach Bill Belichick. "There are a lot of snaps out there on the field and there are quite a few opportunities for us to evaluate the players in practice as well as in the games. Game performances probably carry a little more weight if they're consistent and if there's enough evidence really to go on, but it's hard to make the team based on one play."
After this week's game, the preseason reaches its final stage. The NFL roster limit will go from 80 to 65 players (not including exemptions) on August 30, four days after the Patriots play the Packers. Two days after that, New England will host the New York Giants in the last preseason game before the 53-man regular-season roster limit goes into effect on September 4.
TELEVISON: This week's game is the second of three preseason telecasts that can be seen live throughout New England on the Patriots preseason television network. The game can be seen in Boston on the network's flagship station, WCVB-TV, Channel 5. The Patriots network also includes WNAC-TV Channel 64 in Providence, R.I., WMURTV Channel 9 in Manchester, N.H., WWLP-TV Channel 22 in Springfield, Mass., and WMTW-TV Channel 8 in Portland, Maine. Veteran CBS broadcaster Don Criqui provides play-by-play and is joined by three-time NFL Pro Bowler and CBS analyst Randy Cross. WCVB principal sports anchor Mike Lynch offers on-field reports from the sideline.
RADIO: WBCN 104.1 FM is the flagship station for the Patriots Rock Radio Network. Play-by-play broadcaster Gil Santos begins his 29th season as the voice of the Patriots, and will call the action along with Patriots Hall of Famer Gino Cappelletti. Santos and Cappelletti are celebrating their 22nd season as a broadcast tandem.
This week, the Patriots will face the Packers in the preseason for the 13th time overall. The two teams have split their previous 12 preseason contests, while the Packers have built a 4-3 advantage in the seven regularseason games between the clubs. The teams also squared off in Super Bowl XXXI in January, 1997, which was the first of four Super Bowl appearances in the 11 seasons since Robert Kraft purchased the Patriots. New England will travel to Lambeau Field for the first time in eight years, dating back to the 1997 preseason. The Patriots have played just one regular-season game at Lambeau Field, but have made six previous preseason trips, including three times in a four-year span from 1994-97. New England has not defeated the Packers in the preseason since 1993, having dropped three straight preseason contests in the series. In regular-season play, the Patriots and Packers have been infrequent opponents, having played just three times in the last 16 seasons and only once (2002) in the last seven seasons.
- Packers head coach Mike Sherman grew up in Hyde Park, Mass and attended Boston Latin School. His family later moved to Northboro, Mass., where he was a three-sport athlete at Algonquin Regional High School. Sherman's New England ties include his collegiate years at Central Connecticut State University and a stint as a coach at Holy Cross from 1985-88.
- Packers offensive coordinator Tom Rossley coached at Holy Cross (1986-87).
- Packers defensive coordinator Jim Bates was an assistant on Bill Belichick's staff in Cleveland from 1991-93.
- Patriots assistant secondary coach Joel Collier coached with Packers defensive coordinator Jim Bates and defensive ends coach Bob Sanders with the Miami Dolphins (2000-2004).
- Patriots cornerback Chad Scott's head coach at the University of Maryland was Packers linebackers coach Mark Duffner.
- Packers tight ends/assistant offensive line coach Joe Philbin coached at Northeastern University (1995-96) and Harvard University (1997-98).
- Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork was teammates with Packers running back Najeh Davenport at the University of Miami.
- Patriots running back Chad Morton and Packers safety Todd Franz were teammates with the Washington Redskins for two seasons (2003-04).
- Patriots tight end Daniel Graham and tackle Tom Ashworth were teammates with Packers tackle Brad Bedell at Colorado.
- Patriots center/guard Russ Hochstein and Packers running back Ahman Green were teammates at Nebraska.
- Packers guard Adrian Klemm was drafted by the Patriots in the second round in the 2000 NFL Draft (46th overall).
- Patriots linebacker Don Davis and Packers safety Earl Little were teammates with the New Orleans Saints (1997).
- Patriots running back Corey Dillon was teammates with Packers fullback Nick Luchey and guard Matt O'Dwyer with the Cincinnati Bengals.
- Patriots kicker Robbie Gould and Packers tight end Sean McHigh were teammates at Penn State.
- Packers guard Grey Ruegamer played three seasons with the Patriots (2000-2002).
- Patriots linebacker Monty Beisel was teammates with Packers defensive end R-Kal Truluck with the Kansas City Chiefs (2002-2003).
- Patriots linebacker Tully Banta-Cain was teammates with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at California.
PATRIOTS IN THE PRESEASON
New England has won nine of its last 13 preseason games and has been victorious in 13 of its last 19 preseason contests. The Patriots tied a franchise record with an eight-game preseason winning streak lasting from Aug. 17, 2002 to Aug. 13, 2004. Since Bill Belichick became the head coach, the Patriots hold an overall mark of 15- 8 (.652) in the preseason.
ROSTER REDUCTION DATES
The first mandatory roster cutdown date is August 30, two days prior to the Patriots' final preseason game. On that date, rosters must be reduced to 65 players, not including roster exempt players. On Sunday, Sept. 4, all roster exemptions will expire and rosters must be reduced to the regular-season limit of 53 players. On Sept. 5, clubs may establish an eight-man practice squad.