FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots departed for Philadelphia Monday afternoon, not long after coach Bill Belichick termed his team’s joint practices and exhibition opener against the Eagles to be an important time for everyone involved.
“It will be a big week for all of us to see how we can pull things together from a team standpoint, as well as each one of us individually [to] work on our development and improvement at this point in the season, and then see where we’re at here on Friday night,” Belichick said.
“I think we’re all looking forward to going down there and seeing the Eagles. I have a lot of respect for Chip [Kelly] and his organization, the job that he does. Looking forward to working against some different faces, different jerseys, and getting a gauge on how things are coming along for us.”
Belichick and Kelly, in his first year as Philadelphia’s head coach, have planned how they want the practices to go, but “once the ball is snapped, it’s all going to happen as it happens,” Belichick said. “But just structurally, things we want to try to get done, the drills, who’s going to go where, just to try to get organized so we’re efficient with it, that’s taken some time and communication to organize, but once we have the basic parameters of it, then we’re just on football, and we have to react to what they do, just like game situations, and vice-versa.
“I think that will be good for the players, the coaches, we’ll have to make adjustments down there; they’re running a new coaching staff, new scheme, new system, they have some new players, so we’re not doing a whole lot of scouting and preparation for them, we’ll just see when we get out there, we’ll have to react to it and adjust to it, and that will be good for us as well.”
This is the fifth time the Patriots are holding joint practices with another team; the first was in 2010, when the team spent several days in Atlanta. A week later, the Patriots hosted the Saints. The lockout prevented joint workouts in 2011, but last year New England shared the field with the Buccaneers and Saints.
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork initially was skeptical of the benefits of the sessions, but quickly came around.
“When I first heard about we were doing it, I was like, ‘That’s not going to do anything,’ ” he said Monday. “But when we started doing it, I told Bill, ‘This is something that I really think we get a lot out of.’ ”
Running backs coach Ivan Fears dropped his voice to a whisper when asked what his players get from practicing against another team.
“They get nervous,” Fears said.
“You kidding me?” he said. “It’s like a game every day. Every day is like going out for a game. You get a little anxious. They have to perform when they’re a little anxious, and they have to perform every day. There are no real ‘down’ days. That’s a very competitive day for them.
“Plus we get to see them against guys they haven’t seen, and they have to figure out, they have to learn how to steady a guy and figure out his weaknesses and strengths and how they’re going to attack him. It’s exciting from that standpoint.”
Second-year defensive lineman Justin Francis, like the other players who joined New England last year, went through his all-important first NFL offseason. Belichick calls the time as important physically as it is mentally, and Francis said he definitely feels stronger now.
“We came in and dealing with guys like ‘H’ [strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash] and Moses [Cabrera, assistant strength coach], they’re always on us,” he said. “We’re not vets, we’re still young guys, we have to keep that in the front of our mind too.
“Moses and Harold, they take care of us and stay on top of us, we do the right things for taking care of our bodies in the weight room and outside of football, just eating right, spending time there.”
Even though Francis said the “real, real, real, real” hot days make training camp feel like more of a grind, he has been spotted wearing a hooded sweatshirt under his jersey more than once.
“You gotta make it harder on yourself sometimes,” he said. “You’ve got to build that mental toughness.”
Undrafted out of Rutgers last year, Francis played in 10 regular-season games as well as both postseason games. In the finale against Miami, he had three sacks.
Enthralled by Hall
Belichick left the team after practice Saturday to fly to Canton, Ohio, and attend the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony, where his former boss, Bill Parcells, was among the seven honorees.
He enjoyed the experience, a first even for a man who’s been in the league nearly 40 years.
“I’d never been to that part of it. I’ve been through the Hall, although they’ve redone it. It was always great but it’s even better now,” Belichick said. “I’ve coached in the game a couple times but again, you’re there with your team and you’re kind of doing your thing so you’re not really part of that. So this is the first time I’ve ever been through that.
“It’s an amazing collection of all the icons from professional football — players, coaches, and not just the people who are there in the gold jackets but also many of the other people that come for the event. It was a great experience. It was awesome; it was impressive.
“It was great to see a lot of people that I haven’t seen for a while going back to Bill’s Giants days but also many other people came to be there for Coach Parcells and of course the players that I have coached along that way too. It was a good experience and a great night for Bill.”
Giants coach Tom Coughlin and Saints coach Sean Payton, who also coached under Parcells, also left their respective teams for the night to be present for the induction.
No snap decision
Belichick would not say if quarterback Tom Brady would play more preseason snaps than usual because of the high number of new receivers he’s working with: “We’ll have those discussions as we get closer to the game,” the coach said . . . The Patriots re-signed two rookies, offensive lineman Matt Stankiewitch and long snapper Mike Zupancic. Offensive line injuries have left the team thin there, which helps explain Stankiewitch’s return.Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.