Hannable: Bill Belichick isn’t changing ways, he’s just adapting

Ryan Hannable
August 02, 2018 - 9:20 pm

Brian Fluharty/USA Today Sports

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FOXBORO — At the end of training camp practices in the past, it was almost a daily occurrence for the Patriots to run sprints up and down the back hill connecting the lower grass fields to the upper grass fields.

Thursday, we didn’t see sprints up hills, we saw the first team offense playing defense against the first team defense playing offense. We saw Tom Brady playing safety and Duron Harmon playing quarterback with assistant coaches in referee gear.

While it was only a few plays, it was something we’ve never seen before from the Patriots and goes along with what took place earlier this week after Monday’s in-stadium practice. Rookie offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn had to catch a punt and if he did the team got two nights off. 

Wynn muffed the first, but after some pleading a second attempt was granted and the Georgia product capitalized with the team then mobbing him in celebration. 

According to NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry, Thursday’s offense-defense flip flop was known in advance as each unit had plays drawn up and even held a modified walkthrough to make sure everyone knew where to lineup.

It’s easy for some to make the connection of all the offseason talk of the Patriots not having fun to Bill Belichick suddenly changing the way he does things to have more fun, but it would be ignoring what has taken place in the past.

Linemen — notably Matt Light and Vince Wilfork — have caught punts in the past to earn extra time off and there have been ping pong competitions within the locker room in recent training camps as well.

Like he’s done over the years, Belichick is simply adapting to the latest way of the NFL.

“He’s always had a good gauge on the team, where we’re at, what we need, when we need it, when to push, when to draw back,” Matthew Slater said after practice Thursday. “He’s got a unique feel for that kind of stuff. And to the outside world or someone who’s not in there with him every day, it may seem like he’s way out of touch, but that’s not the case. I think that he’s shown that to me, he’s proved that to me year-in and year-out that he’s always going to try to do what’s best for the team so that ultimately we can be successful.”

Belichick is no longer coaching the Giants in the mid 80s. There are new rules. There are no two-a-days. Some drills have been banned. And most importantly, players are different.

It’s just the way life is these days. It goes all the way back to youth sports. Hard coaching is virtually a thing of the past and it’s now everyone is a winner and gets a trophy. 

At the NFL level that means being a league that prefers players’ coaches -- coaches that are going to joke around and be “friends” with players, instead of being intense and do whatever it takes to get the most out of their players, even if that means getting in their face day-in and day-out.

Belichick incorporating different, more fun things into training camp isn’t a sign the coach has given in to everything that was said about the Patriots’ culture this offseason, it’s just a continuation of him adapting to the times.

Just one of the many attributes that make him arguably the greatest coach to ever coach the game.

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