The Patriots wrapped up their week on Wednesday, getting a practice and one last media availability in before the players checked out for a four-day break from football. Some, like Damien Harris, were headed off to see their old college teams play. Others were just keeping it local and using the time to rest and catch up on quality time with family.
"The bye weeks usually comes at a perfect time for me," said captain Devin McCourty who played coy and wouldn't reveal his plans. "Just to be able to rest and try to get the body to feel better. I think at this point of the season it's good from a physical and mental standpoint just to get away from football for a couple days. I think it kind of re-energizes you and gets you ready to come back and put in a lot of work. Because that's what we have to do. We have seven games left and each one of those games will be very important as you talk about the end of the season coming."
The upcoming schedule will undoubtedly be on the player's minds as they take their short breaks. They'll face a tough stretch of four games that starts off with a road trip to Philadelphia, followed by a home game against the Cowboys, another away game against the Texans and then a sure-to-be-hyped AFC power matchup against the Chiefs in Foxboro. Those are quality teams that will be eager to see if they can reproduce the kind of gameplan that the Ravens executed.
But Phillip Dorsett said what really matters is the Patriots focusing on themselves and playing their kind of football.
"It gets tougher down the road," said Dorsett. "Teams get a lot of film on you. Doesn't really matter about the team that we're actually playing, at the end of the day we gotta come out there and do our job. We gotta go out there and execute as an offense and play our own game."
When the team gets back in on Monday it will be full speed ahead on the stretch run to the playoffs. McCourty said the team will have to be ready to go and focused.
"I think just being locked in on what it is you need to get better at." said McCourty. "We put in a good day today and I think now one of the key things is getting away and being fresh and ready to go so that when you come back you understand, 'I took advantage of the couple days off' and now we have a ride that goes to the end of the season. Whatever we're doing, whatever we put into it really determines how the season will end. That's kind of up to us. I think it's our opportunity to realize that and take advantage of it."
Running back Rex Burkhead echoed the sentiments of his coach and fellow veterans - the hardest part is yet to come.
"We're 8-1 and we know there's a long ways to go so we're not going to settle on anything," said Burkhead. "We know we have a lot to improve upon, we're just going to look at things to do. We had a good day of practice today but a lot more work is ahead."
The Patriots put in one final practice before getting four days off for their bye week, donning full pads under clear skies with a cold breeze. The lone absences were Patrick Chung and Ben Watson. Chung has been appearing on the injury report with both heel and chest issues, and has missed two of the last four games but was seen in the locker room in the afternoon, a good sign.
The team will be back at practice on Monday afternoon as they begin preparations for the Philadelphia Eagles.