They've said they're committed to working hard to build on that base because the learning curve is so much more accelerated due to the abbreviated offseason. The positive side of that is it's easier to fight complacency, which can really creep up in a normal training camp.
"You know that the regular season is approaching fast," linebacker Rob Ninkovich said. "Instead of a month to get ready for game time, you have two weeks to get ready for that first Monday night game. You're definitely just making sure that you're getting yourself ready for that first week of preparation, making sure that you're fine-tuning some things and still working on things that you need to work on to improve for that first game of the year."
The Patriots have been working out at Gillette Stadium for four weeks since they were allowed to report July 26, and they're 20 days shy of their regular-season opener against the Dolphins. But that's the long-term spectrum at this point.
It's a transition week of sorts for the Patriots, who are gearing up for their third preseason game Saturday against the Lions. They broke from training camp Saturday, giving some of them the opportunity to get out of the team hotel, although Bill Belichick said Tuesday there are still plenty of 16-, 17- and 18-hour days at Gillette Stadium.
More and more, the team's preparation has been changing over the last two weeks, even on a daily basis. This week, the Patriots will be game-planning more for the Lions than they did last week against the Buccaneers. And they hardly did any of that for the preseason opener against the Jaguars, since they were still installing their own stuff.
"The tone and tempo kind of doesn't change at practice, but mentally, it changes a little bit as far as preparing for an opponent," cornerback Devin McCourty said. "It's not about just yourself. You've got to actually prepare, know who's on the other side of the ball, know some strengths, some weaknesses of the other team. That changes from a mental standpoint, but physically, we're still going out there and trying to get after it at practice."
The Patriots also have an opportunity to adjust to something a little more similar to a regular-season schedule due to the extended layoff between games. While they've still been working at a training-camp pace, this week could give Belichick a look at how his players will respond to a slightly different schedule of preparation.
Of the other things in focus, several members of the Patriots have noted on-field communication due to the mass of new bodies who have been added to the mix. And the guys on the defensive side of the ball are still trying to adjust to a vastly updated scheme.
So, while linebacker Jerod Mayo said he's "very excited" about the way things have started, he's on the same page with the rest of the Patriots who are gearing up to prepare for the regular season.
"I know right now at this point we're not ready," McCourty said. "Hopefully, we keep working and these next three weeks,[and] it will all come together as good enough just to go out there and play in that season opener."
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