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It’s the season for tricks, and few people like treating his players — and scaring opponents — more than Josh McDaniels.

Flea flickers, reverses, end arounds, double passes. You name it, the Patriots offensive coordinator has them in his arsenal, and he’s never shy about pulling them out of his bag of tricks. Somewhere in the sack, there’s likely a Statue of Liberty and fumblerooski waiting to happen.

What McDaniels isn’t so fond of is the word “tricks.” Commonly known as “gadget plays” around the NFL, they are drilled so much by McDaniels that they’re commonplace in Foxborough.


“I usually tell the guys that we’re going to rep them in practice enough and rep them long enough, sometimes for weeks, to the point where none of us feel like it’s a trick,” McDaniels said Tuesday. “I think that’s the biggest thing for me is, if I don’t feel confident in the scheme or the execution of the scheme in practice, if the players don’t feel confident in what they’re being asked to do, then I don’t think it’s really a safe thing to use.”

Like every decision in football, it all comes down to minimizing the risks to maximize the rewards.

“A lot of times for me, we have to see a bad look and then make a good decision in practice and not make a play, turn a play into a turnover or something like that in practice and see the reactions from the players when those things happen,” said McDaniels.

A high school quarterback, wide receiver Jakobi Meyers has thrown a handful of passes this season.
A high school quarterback, wide receiver Jakobi Meyers has thrown a handful of passes this season.Matt Patterson/Associated Press

“Once we cross over that line and feel comfortable with the decision-making, based on who’s going to be touching the ball or what have you, then I don’t really feel it like it’s a huge risk myself because I trust the guys and trust what we’re doing, and we’ve seen it on tape and we’ve got a lot of examples of it in practice.”


As coach Bill Belichick noted after Sunday’s blowout win over the Jets — which featured Kendrick Bourne’s first NFL pass, a touchdown strike to Nelson Agholor — there are times when a trick play can go awry because a defense might be more aggressive in how it attacks than what the offense, which practiced against the scout team, is used to seeing.

Confidence is a must, Belichick said.

“Generally speaking, some of our kind of one-time plays, misdirection or double passes, things like that, those guys are executing pretty well in practice, so I have confidence in them,” he said. “ “You want to have confidence in the guy who has the ball that if something goes wrong, you’re not going to turn the ball over. If it’s not there, then you just throw it away and go back and line up again, run another play.”

McDaniels has a key indicator that lets him know when the confidence and timing are in synch.

“I always tell them, if your heartbeat starts going up and we call this, we probably haven’t repped it enough in practice,” he said. “And when we call it in the game, if we don’t miss a beat, we don’t get all wide-eyed in the huddle because we know we feel good about our execution and our ability to run it right, then just go ahead and let it rip.”


McDaniels also said there’s no number in mind when it comes to calling the unusual plays. It’s whatever feels right.

Josh McDaniels has gotten creative this season.
Josh McDaniels has gotten creative this season.Matt Patterson/Associated Press

“And so, whether it’s one or two or three, whatever, like I said, I don’t really consider them tricks as long as we practice them enough,” he said. “And so, however many we call or don’t call, I think is really more based on the game and the situation.”

There’s also no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to calling exotic plays. Not every call is destined for success against every defense. Once the decision is made to try a play, it becomes a part of the game plan.

“You can’t run them blindly against every defense; that doesn’t work,” said McDaniels. “You have to know what you’re looking for and there’s got to be a reason behind [it].”

McDaniels also seeks the input of his fellow coaches when it comes to the design and deployment of the trickery.

“I don’t go into my office and draw trick plays ad nauseum every week,” he said with a chuckle. “They all have a say in what the game plan is. They come from everywhere, you know?

“And so, to me, it’s just about whether the idea is sound and whether the defense that we’re playing would give us a chance based on how they play and the scheme they use to make it work.”

The Patriots placed linebacker/special teamer Harvey Langi on injured reserve after he suffered a knee ailment Sunday … Safety Elijah Benton was released from the practice squad. He had signed Oct. 6 … The team also had three players in for workouts: running back Rodney Smith, offensive tackle Casey Tucker, and guard Willie Wright.


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.