Bill Belichick Taking it Easy on Patriots, But Is That Good or Bad?

FOXBORO, Mass. — Thunder and lightning forced the Patriots to move their Thursday afternoon practice inside the Dana-Farber Field House. They started outside on the practice fields but moved inside 50 minutes into the session, and they stayed in the bubble for another 45 minutes.

Cornerback Leigh Bodden, who slipped during a one-on-one drill with the running backs in the morning session, missed the afternoon practice. Tackle Mark LeVoir also missed his first practice.

Thursday afternoon's practice — the Patriots' 15th of training camp — was held in shorts and shells for the second time. Once they moved inside, drills were conducted at half speed. The Patriots also spent time working on onside kicks, which fits Bill Belichick's plan of moving toward situational football at this stage of camp.

The Patriots have really slowed down the tempo this week. They've held seven sessions since Monday morning. Two were walkthroughs, two were in shorts and shells, two were full-speed padded sessions and one (Monday morning) was half speed in pads. They also canceled Wednesday morning's practice.

This could mean one of three things.

1. It's a good sign
The players have impressed the coaching staff with a strong work ethic, matching the intensity that was demanded early in camp, and they've been rewarded with slower sessions to save their legs. The Patriots have conducted double-sessions in seven of their first eight days of camp, and the coaching staff has told the players they'll take it easy on them in practice if they're attentive and responsible in the meeting rooms.

2. It's a bad sign
It's a young team, and teaching is more important than hitting. The Patriots haven’t been able to install their system at full speed, so Belichick has been forced to take a more deliberate method in his teachings.

3. It's a strategic move
Belichick said earlier in the offseason that his team couldn’t exactly show all of its cards during its joint sessions with the Saints and Falcons. The Patriots will hold two days of practices with the Saints next week and, presumably, two more days with the Falcons the following week. Because of that, it's ultra-important for the Patriots to get ahead with their installations, as they'll lose out on some opportunities in the coming weeks.

Thirteen other players missed the afternoon session — the same group who missed each of the last two practices. They included defensive lineman Ron Brace, outside linebacker Derrick Burgess, running back Thomas Clayton, linebacker Gary Guyton, cornerback Terrence Johnson, offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, safety Bret Lockett, left guard Logan Mankins, defensive lineman Myron Pryor, wide receiver Matthew Slater, defensive lineman Ty Warren, cornerbackB and defensive lineman Mike Wright.

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