The Patriots kicked off preparation for the Jets with their usual Wednesday schedule that included a press conference with Bill Belichick, practice and open locker room in the afternoon. As is always the case, the head coach set the tone with full focus on the New York Jets.
While the Jets are off to a 0-2 record and have been decimated by injuries and sickness, Belichick was still wary of their divisional rivals.
"I'd say mentally this is not the easiest game because of the amount of things that they do and how well they do them," said Belichick, also offering praise for head coach Adam Gase.
"I think [Gase] does a terrific job. Certainly, we've had a ton of problems playing against him in the past. He's a very good football coach. Does an excellent job with the team, certainly offensively, of creating problems for all defenses, especially ours. That'll be a big challenge for us, just handling the strategic aspect of the game, the matchups that he creates."
Coach Gase was equally complimentary back to the Patriots coach.
"It's always a challenge," said Gase in his conference call with the New England media. "Put the rankings aside, any time that you go against a Coach [Bill] Belichick coached defense it's extremely tough, there's a lot of variety. When you get to the game, there's always going to be something that's new. There's going to be something that you have to adjust to. It's always a challenge as a coach, and it really more about making sure your guys understand that there's going to be things that you haven't seen yet."
In the locker room, Devin McCourty pointed out how much success Gase's teams have had in recent years against the Patriots.
"He's beaten us at least one time each of the last four or five seasons," said McCourty. "I think that's how we see the games because we're involved. We know the feeling, last year we went to Miami and played against his offense. They averaged nine yards-per-carry. We know all of that stuff. We don't see point spreads and all of that nonsense. We see what we went through and how the game's played."
Praise for Versatility
Sometimes coach Belichick gets asked a question that prompts a fascinating answer, usually revolving around football strategy or history. Today it was a question about Rex Burkhead's versatility that got the coach going. He was quick to include Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Kyle Van Noy as players who could play multiple roles for the team and what a luxury it is to have.
"You're lucky to have one of those guys on your team, maybe two of those guys on your team," said Belichick. "We have more than that so that's something that's really a great help as a coach in terms of game planning and also managing the entire roster because they just give you so much depth. Even if we never use it, it's still great because you know that, 'OK, well that position is secure.'"
That versatility is especially useful on special teams where the coach pointed out you have multiple spots to back up and a limited amount of players to do it.
"If you have a guy like Burkhead, 'OK, he can play these three spots on the kickoff team. Chung, McCourty – they can play these two spots, OK,'" continued Belichick. "You can back up the whole kickoff team with two or three guys, that's a good thing."
"There's a hidden effect there and, yeah, nobody knows, nobody even cares until you get an injury and you get a punt blocked, then it's a world crisis. It can go in a hurry, but those kind of players give you tremendous value," said Belichick.
Burkhead appreciated the praise from the coach and was proud of his ability to do multiple things on the field.
"I love doing multiple things," Burkhead told reporters in the locker room. "I find that joy in the game. That's something my dad always preached to me from a very young age. The more you can do the longer you can play."
Practice & Injury Report
The team was in full pads on a cool and windy day of practice. New offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch was in attendance, while James Develin and Shilique Calhoun were missing.
The Patriots initial injury report of the week was:
- Shilique Calhoun – Not Injury Related - DNP
- James Develin – Neck - DNP
- Brandon Bolden – Hamstring – Full
- Tom Brady – Calf – Limited
- Caleb Benenonch – Calf - Limited
- Marcus Cannon – Shoulder – Limited
- Matt LaCosse – Ankle – Limited
Brady's appearance on the report was cause for concern but Ian Rapoport tweeted out that it wasn't a big deal.
Locker Room Sound Bites
Matthew Slater on if he's worried when his quarterback pops up on the injury report:
"Not when your quarterback's Tom Brady."