When the Patriots announced they would travel to Atlanta for a joint practice with the Falcons in 2010, Vince Wilfork was skeptical.
It was something new for New England. Wilfork couldn’t help but wonder: How would this benefit the team? Traveling in the middle of training camp? Disrupting the flow of practices?
“When I first heard about we were doing it, I was like, ‘That’s not going to do anything,’” said Wilfork, the 31-year-old defensive tackle.
Three years and four joint practice trips later, Wilfork changed his mind.
“I told Bill [Belichick] this is something that I really think we get a lot out of,” Wilfork said.
The Patriots will practice with the Eagles on Tuesday and Wednesday before playing a preseason game in Philadelphia on Friday.
Wilfork said the trip “breaks up training camp.” Sometimes players need fresh scenery or new challenges to rejuvenate them amid the training camp grind.
Facing the Eagles also means playing against something different. Since training camp began on July 26, Wilfork has faced the same offensive line over and over again. He has defended against the same playbook, the same offensive schemes.
In Philadelphia, he will see something extremely new – especially with former Oregon coach Chip Kelly now running the show.
Wilfork said throughout the season, the Patriots will see many different types of offenses. This prepares them.
“We get out and work against a good football team, a young team, a head coach coming in with a little bit of swagger that he brings from college,” Wilfork said.
One last benefit? The practice leads into New England’s first preseason game on Aug. 9. And that marks the transition from training camp to preparing to face a different team.
“It puts you in the mind frame that the season is here,” Wilfork said. “If you didn’t think it was here when you came to camp, now it’s here.”