Welcome to The Grind.
It's not the literal meaning of the word of course, as in reducing something to small bits or fragments. But in a way, the repetitive drudgery that Training Camp often develops into IS a grind - you'd love to be able to reduce it any way you can.
The players and coaches know about it better than we do. But if you've been around the game of football for any length of time, whether you're a fan or someone who covers football for a living, The Grind merely indicates continuing with a process that can prepare a player or coach mentally and physically for the long, physical haul of the season ahead of them.
I would argue Patriots fans have learned how to handle The Grind as well as anyone, especially with the always-high expectations that exist for their team. How else does a 17-week regular season become tolerable when you expect your team to be in the playoffs every year?
Because you learn how to handle The Grind right along with the coaches and players.
Can't afford to get too high, can't afford to let yourself fall too low. Maintaining an even keel and demeanor, learning how to turn the page after successes and learning how to bounce back after disappointment without a lot of 'noise' are big factors in learning to cope with The Grind.
The Urban Dictionary - and I often find myself scrolling through a few of those pages on a weekly basis - says staying on The Grind means to work hard, always be hustling or otherwise engaged in money-making or woman-procuring activities or endeavors.
Well, sorry, can't help you with the latter. But the money-making part certainly makes sense, if not cents. Hustling? Let's say the only hustle that counts here will be on the field over the next month or so.
An athlete on The Grind is also someone who pushes his or her ability to the very end - someone exceeding their physical limitations to push for success or victory. Working hard, staying in a "zone" and remaining focused on the task(s) at hand.
That's the kind of thing I'm certain most are thinking about when referencing The Grind as an entity. It means different things to different people, but in football parlance, The Grind is Training Camp. And Training Camp is The Grind.
Summer. Heat. Humidity. Sweat. Repetition. Aches. Pains. Fitness. Injury. And hopefully, ultimately, success.
Enduring it, then doing it all over again. The Grind seems tough and monotonous. Why do it?
Well, what happens when you grind something down? The result is usually material ground to a degree of fineness - that is, something refined or smoothed out due to the process of grinding. And isn't that what we're really talking about here?
Refining football skills and abilities to a degree of fineness before the regular season begins and the games count in the standings. That's exactly what we're talking about. Smoothing out the rough edges of new players joining a new team, with changing roles, maybe changing schemes, formations and plays, too.
It doesn't happen overnight. Have you heard Coach Belichick talk about The Grind of camp being "a process?" Getting to where you always hope (or expect) to go, which is the postseason, takes effort to get there. Physical effort, mental effort and emotional effort, too.
See, The Grind is actionable and tangible. It's a real thing. And it's finally here.
We're glad it is. It wouldn't be football season without it.
Predictions are what they are.
Preseason predictions can be a little ridiculous, can't they?
It's one thing to be a 7-1 favorite to get back to the Super Bowl - which are the odds in most Las Vegas books for the Patriots before the season ever kicks off - but individual odds, or those centering on performance factors and results also often go beyond reasonable boundaries and expectations.
Have you seen that Tom Brady is already the preseason favorite to repeat as NFL MVP for this season? Winning the award for a third time in his career last season, Brady automatically became the most successful 40-year-old in NFL history.
Or in the history of professional sport. No one else has an MVP at 40+, even though Barry Bonds in baseball (wink, wink) had one at that age, too. So naturally, the oldest MVP in NFL history is already the favorite in friendly wagering circles to win the MVP, again, at age 41.
Has the sports world gone daft? Or has Tom Brady found the Fountain of Youth? Neither, probably. But the natural assumption is - TB12 isn't through producing at a high rate of success. Even though there's no real way to predict what will happen over the course of long season, all things being equal, Brady is expected to still be Brady.
Fair, or not? We all expect the Patriots to keep winning, to keep reaching the postseason and to keep making Super Bowls, correct? Because that's what they do, or at least, what they've done in the recent past.
But the reality of it is, based on league history, only five QB's even have as many as 100 passing attempts in a single season at age 41 or older.
And we're expecting Brady to be the MVP, again? The oddsmakers say so.
Ridiculous. Or historical? Or is it just Brady?
No matter how bad...
The Los Angeles Chargers have been in Training Camp for about as long as the Patriots have been, and they've already suffered a season's worth of injuries in their opening week.
Gone for the season, already, are CB Jason Verrett (Achilles), TE Hunter Henry (ACL) and TE Austin Roberts (ACL). Other teams are also beginning to feel the pain during camp, as Carolina lost CB Russ Cockrell with a broken leg and tackle Daryl Williams to a dislocated knee.
Other teams are dealing with veteran contract hold-outs (Seattle, Oakland, LA Rams) and still others haven't yet signed all of their rookies (Chicago, LB Roquan Smith). The J-E-T-S did finally reach an agreement Monday with rookie QB Sam Darnold, but he'll be involved in a battle for playing time, at least initially, with Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater.
So, while you consider the storylines for the Patriots while reading, watching, listening and observing practices for yourself, consider a favorite, often-strange-but-usually-true factoid:
_No matter how bad you think you have it, someone else out there always has it worse. _
That's life in a nutshell, isn't it? That's also football. You ready for it?
John Rooke, an author and award-winning broadcaster, is entering his 26th season as the Patriots' stadium voice. Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for more than 30 years and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.