PHILADELPHIA — Everyone had good things to say about the first joint practice between the Patriots and Eagles Tuesday.
This was the first time first-year Eagles coach Chip Kelly has taken part in such a session, but this is the fifth time since 2010 Bill Belichick has had his Patriots share the field with another squad, with another coming next week against the Buccaneers in Foxborough.
“It’s good for everybody,” Belichick said. “It’s good for the young guys, it’s good for the new guys, it’s good for the old coaches. It’s good for all of us. You see something new. We’ve been working against ourselves for quite a while now, and we sort of start to know each other’s plays, know each other’s call, certainly know the guys we line up against on a regular basis.
“Now we get a whole new set of faces and looks and things we don’t know; things we have to adjust to and react to, we won’t be able to anticipate as well. That will be good for all of us. I think this is as helpful for the coaching staff as it is for the young players, and I think the veteran players look forward to it as well. Anything to break up the monotony of camp, I think they’re for.”
Tuesday’s practice, which ran about 2½ hours, was done in full pads, which allowed for offensive and defensive linemen to engage in one-on-ones, and for some full-speed work in the kicking games.
It also meant a good deal of 11-on-11, with the coaches deciding beforehand that their top two quarterbacks and top two defensive units would get the majority of the snaps.
“I liked how we competed,” Kelly said. “I liked our effort in terms of how we were playing. I think we’re on track from both the defensive and offensive systems from the communication standpoint. I don’t think there were many mental errors, where guys just didn’t know what they were doing or didn’t know what the call was.”
New England did not prepare a scouting report on the Eagles, wanting to go in blind, which gave the coaches an opportunity to make on-the-fly adjustments.
Tom Brady seemed to have little trouble against the Philadelphia defense, completing a high percentage of his passes in full-team work, but he still believes these types of practices are healthy.
“It lets you know where you’re at. You’re measured up against some other great competition,” he said. “We’ve run some plays against our own defense in practice at this point 30 or 40 times, so it’s nice to see a fresh look at it. You get some different techniques with some different players.”
The first sign the Patriots were ready to start working against someone new came on Day 5 of training camp last Tuesday at Gillette Stadium.
The team was wrapping up an afternoon practice session and was conducting some inside runs in the red zone. Brady had just handed the ball off to Stevan Ridley, who bolted through the line of scrimmage and made a hard cut to the right. Ridley no sooner had run to daylight when cornerback Kyle Arrington swooped in, lowered his shoulder, and knocked the running back to the ground with a loud pop.
Tempers flared when Ridley sprang to his feet and flung the ball at Arrington, who responded with a hard shove. Before the incident could escalate into a full-scale brawl, Belichick blew his whistle, signaling an end to the jousting match and to practice.
“It’s just camp, man,” Ridley said at the time. “We’re competitors out here and we’re working hard and the days are getting long and that’s part of it.”
The incident, though, seemed to underscore the reason teams have adopted joint practices during training camp.
Relocating the Patriots training camp operation to Philadelphia, though, required some planning and organization on the part of equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld, whose staff packed about 15,000-20,000 pounds of gear onto two trucks Monday for the journey.
“The biggest thing with any extended trip, especially if it includes practice, when we go away for a game, we pretty much know what to expect,” Schoenfeld said. “The way we pack we’re pretty much set up for anything that we might need for game day.’’
The challenge, Schoenfeld said, is that his staff must outfit 90 players, not just 53 as they are accustomed to doing during the regular season. Then there is the extra gear — for practice and game day — that must be packed.
“We can’t bring the sleds, we can’t bring Juggs [machine], we can’t bring the big [tackling dummies],” Schoenfeld said. “What we’ll do is we’ll bring the little essentials – the step-over bags, the shields, obviously, the balls, and cones — stuff that we know that we need. Then we just kind of rely on Philadelphia or whatever team we’re going to practice with.”