HOUSTON — The New England Patriots added another layer of preparation for Super Bowl LI on Wednesday with their first full practice session since arriving in Texas.
It was hardly a “typical” Wednesday practice.
Not this time of year. The Patriots conducted three practices and a long walkthrough during the bye week in Foxboro, Mass., last week, when they installed much of the game plan for the matchup Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
Now it’s a matter of refining that plan.
“We’re way ahead of where we’d be on a normal Wednesday,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said after the two-hour practice at the University of Houston. “Some of the move-the-field stuff, red area, we normally wouldn’t get to the Wednesday before the game.”
As Belichick alluded to, the Patriots spent significant time Wednesday working on situational football, including red zone packages and a two-minute drill near the end of the practice when Tom Brady demonstrated high energy and the expected rhythm and sharpness as he moved the offense down the field.
“They’re out there trying. Worked hard,” Belichick said of his overall impression. “There are some things we need to correct and work on. That’s the way it usually is. We got some things right, executed just about how we wanted to and there are some other things we need to refine.”
Belichick mixed up the rotation matching the various units throughout practice. Brady saw snaps against the Patriots’ first-team defense as well as the scout team defense. The starting defense, meanwhile, got extensive looks from a scout team quarterbacked by Jacoby Brissett.
The session also represented another step in the progress of special teams ace Nate Ebner, who has been in the concussion protocol since the AFC Championship Game, but has been cleared to practice. Ebner wore the type of red jersey Wednesday that the quarterbacks wear to signal that he is to avoid contact. He seemed to move well and without incident.
Belichick was awaiting word on whether Ebner is fully cleared to play, which is usually determined by an evaluation in the days following a return to physical activity.
“Where he’s at exactly, I’m not sure,” Belichick said of Ebner’s status.
All other players were accounted for and participated in the practice, with no apparent setbacks due to any injuries sustained Wednesday.
The Patriots finished practice roughly an hour before their scheduled media availability was to begin.
While the Falcons had their media session at 8 a.m. local time, the Patriots didn’t go until 4 p.m. Belichick said the only other slot offered was 10:15 am., after the Falcons — getting first choice as the designated home team — claimed the earliest slot.
The 10:15 a.m. slot was less appealing, when considering practice and meetings.
“Right in the middle of the day,” Belichick said of the earlier slot. “So we’re just doing it all now (later in the day). It’s just the better flow for us.”
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images