The Patriots take a different approach, using it as a way to end the offseason on a high note and set the stage for training camp.
And so with that in mind, and the Patriots set to start minicamp this morning, it was hard not to think back to an April conversation in Florida coach Urban Meyer’s office down in Gainesville. The two-time national championship coach told the story of his first visit to Foxboro, back in 2005, when he and Bill Belichick were first forging their relationship.
“It’s the day before they get ready to break minicamp, and Tom Brady basically ran the offense, Tedy Bruschi was in charge of running the defense, Vrabel was running down on scout kickoff, that’s how unselfish he is, their coaches are coaching like it’s the Super Bowl,” Meyer said that day, when I asked for last images from his first trip while I was working on this story. “And they finish the last day, the last practice – this before they go on vacation, where most places it’d be a jack-around – they did a two-minute drill and it was Tom Brady against the first-team defense. And they scored right in the end, it was in shorts, and it was like they won the Super Bowl.
“They’re all jumping around, and I’m thinking, ‘Now I know why. Everything they do, they compete.’ Someone says that about Florida and we’re in good shape.”
That was five years ago, and Meyer was just months removed from leaving Utah, while Belichick and Co. were coming off their third championship in four years. So a lot has changed since then, to be sure.
But my guess is that this ideal hasn’t gone anywhere. I thought of it again when, during last week’s OTAs, I saw the team scrimmaging 1s-vs.-1s more frequently — They’re ramping up.
You try not to overreact to things you see at these practices. Still, it’s important to remember that this camp is important in the eyes of the Patriots’ staff, and there’s no greater evidence of that than Meyer’s reaction to what he saw five Junes ago.
That, in fact, led to so many discussions between Meyer and Belichick to come.
“We rarely talk about scheme, but we talk about fundamentals all the time,” Meyer said. “I watched him in practice, watched the way he coaches. And I don’t know that we’ve taken a lot of scheme from him, but we’ve taken fundamentals. We’ve taken some of his drills, which I couldn’t write down fast enough, because it’s all fundamentals.
“And I think the Espirit De Corps. He’s built that team like this now. When you see Vrabel running down 50 yards on a June 16 day, last day of minicamp, and he’s a scout kickoff guy, that’s the way I want my team to be.”
So in addition to being on Welker Watch, we’ll keep an eye on these kinds of little things over the next couple days.