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Bill Belichick is branching out from his own coaching tree when it comes to Patriots joint practices

Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers will join the Patriots for a pair of practices next week leading into Friday night's exhibition game.Nell Redmond/Associated Press

Training camp is a series of ramp-up sessions and the most competitive of those is on tap with the Patriots poised to host the Panthers for a pair of joint practices prior to Friday’s exhibition game.

Once looked at as a novelty, joint practices have become the norm. For Bill Belichick, they’re a vital component to measuring his team’s progress and seeing its competition level tested by fresh faces.

In past years Belichick has worked with coaches he has close relationships with, including Sean Payton (Saints), Bill O’Brien (Texans), Matt Patricia (Lions), Mike Vrabel (Titans), and Joe Judge (Giants). That trend will continue in two weeks when the Patriots travel to Las Vegas for some work with Josh McDaniels’s Raiders.


First however, Belichick will collaborate with a new coach for the second straight year. The Patriots traveled to Philadelphia last season to practice with Nick Sirianni’s Eagles and now Matt Rhule will bring Carolina to town.

The seeds for working together get planted early and discussions are held at various points, including the owner’s meetings and the scouting combine. If it’s a match, then the teams will put in a request with the league before the schedule is finalized.

“It’s important to be on the same page with the other head coach and their organization on what they’re looking for and what they’re trying to do,” said Belichick. “So, I feel real comfortable working with Matt, like we did last year with the Philadelphia Eagles.’’

Belichick acknowledged that it’s easier to work with a familiar foe — ”Those [practices] are pretty clean, because we’re pretty much doing the same thing, so it’s easy to mesh together,” he said Friday — he’s also found it beneficial to work with the Eagles.

“I’m looking forward to it. I think it’ll be a great work week for us and it’s a team that’s – the good side of working with coaches that you know, or you’ve worked with, is the scheduling and things like that. But a lot of times their style of play has some similarities to ours,” Belichick said. “In this case, [and] in Philadelphia was another example where that really wasn’t the case, those teams will do things quite a bit differently than we do and so we’ll see different matchups, different schemes, and things like that. So, I think there’s benefit to both, but yeah, you certainly want a good working relationship with the other organization and coach and so with last year, with Coach Sirianni, this year with Coach Rhule we feel great about working with those guys. They’ve been great in the process so far. I’m sure it’ll be good this week.’’


Return engagement

Myles Bryant got a couple of rises out of the crowd, and his sideline, with a pair of impressive punt returns in Thursday’s 23-21 loss to the Giants.

A slot corner/safety during his first two seasons with the Patriots, Bryant is looking to expand his resume and made a good initial impression after getting some run at the role during OTAs and training camp. Gunner Olszewski returned punts the last three seasons before signing with the Steelers.

Bryant said it was the first time since high school he’s returned punts and he’s leaned heavily on Troy Brown’s coaching as he reacquaints himself to returning.

“He’s taught me everything I know about it so far and I’m looking forward to learning a lot more,” said Bryant, who showed shiftiness on returns of 30 and 16 yards. “Of course he showed us clips [of him]. He puts his own highlight reel on. Rightfully so.”


Belichick, who called Bryant “diligent, hard-working, and instinctive,” isn’t surprised by his return capabilities.

“He’s shown a good ability to track and catch the ball,” said the coach. “We know Myles has good quickness and he is a good decision maker, which is a lot in that position and made a couple of nice plays [Thursday] night, so he’s worked hard for that opportunity, earned it and then did something with it. So, all really encouraging things, but I mean, that’s kind of typical of Myles.’’


Pierre Strong Jr. led the Patriots with 25 yards rushing on six carries as he continues to build up after starting the season on the PUP list. Strong also showed some instinctiveness on a few blitz pick-ups, giving fellow rookie Bailey Zappe an extra tick to throw . . . Jake Bailey appears set for the regular season after averaging 48.8 yards per punt, including a long of 61 yards . . . The Giants have a guard named Shane Lemieux and naturally he wears No. 66.

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