Going back to old way of tuning up
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff is excited, of course, to see a bunch of his old friends this week, with the Patriots practicing in the Atlanta area today and the teams squaring off Thursday night at the Georgia Dome.
The plan is in place, and both teams went through this shared-practice song-and-dance with other clubs last week, so there shouldn’t be many surprises.
Except maybe six.
In putting together the schedule for today, the Patriots agreed to go by the home team’s practice structure, with one exception. Atlanta will pick up New England’s tradition of blasting someone’s music playlist during stretching.
And, the sides agreed, it will be three songs from Atlanta coach Mike Smith’s collection, and three from Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s. Fair and square.
“I’m as excited to see that playlist come out between Smitty and Bill as anything,’’ said Dimitroff, the Patriots’ director of college scouting from 2003-07. “I’m sure it’ll be laced with ’70s music. I don’t think there’ll be any Eminem out there.’’
If the music’s dated, that might be appropriate, as each team has decided to go back to the old way of holding joint practices during training camp.
The Falcons practiced with the Jaguars, Smith’s old club, last Monday and Tuesday at the team’s Flowery Branch, Ga., headquarters. The Patriots worked with the Saints last Tuesday and Wednesday in advance of their game Thursday night.
So both sides know what they’re getting into this time around. Belichick called the three practices with New Orleans last week “among the most productive practices that I’ve been part of in my career,’’ and Dimitroff’s assessment of Atlanta’s work with Jacksonville was similar.
“I think we got out of it what we expected,’’ he said last night. “We got a ramped-up element of enthusiasm and competitiveness, and our guys got to go against good football players in different colors. That’s important at this point in camp — you’ve got the dog days tugging at your focus and enjoyment of football.
“This brought back a spark of excitement. We had some skirmishes, but nothing got out of hand. I thought the coaches handled it well, and got the point across that this wasn’t some kind of street fight, it’s about getting better as a team. And I think we did.’’
Players and coaches can benefit from things they see from another team.
Dimitroff said one thing he remembers from his time with the Patriots was the drive of quarterback Tom Brady in a practice setting. He believes it will benefit anyone on his team to see that, and he’s excited to watch Brady and the Falcons’ young franchise QB, Matt Ryan, interact.
When Dimitroff was studying Ryan before the 2008 draft, on one occasion, he looked at the “12’’ on the Boston College signal-caller’s jersey and the Brady comparison hit him. Today the two will be side-by-side.
“I don’t think they got too much time to talk when we were up there last year,’’ Dimitroff said. “In a more relaxed setting, I’m looking forward to seeing them with the opportunity to talk some more. I know Matt’s got tremendous respect for Tom. That’ll be fun to watch.’’
Meanwhile, there’ll be plenty of Patriots people who will enjoy seeing Dimitroff in his still relatively new digs.
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio was philosophic yesterday about days he and Dimitroff spent together.
“We have a lot of respect for the Atlanta Falcons organization, for what Mr. [Arthur] Blank, coach [Mike] Smith, and Thomas Dimitroff have done,’’ Caserio said. “He’s still a close friend of mine and a confidant, so it will be nice to catch up with him and see how they do some different things down there in Atlanta.’’
If, as is widely expected, an 18-game regular season is implemented and the preseason is cut to two games, it’s likely that joint practices will become more commonplace. So preparing for that scenario early makes sense.
“I understand some teams are private,’’ Dimitroff said. “That said, there are very beneficial aspects to this, as long as there’s a mutual respect between the head coaches and you’re able to keep what happens contained and positive without distraction.
“And if things are to go in that direction [18-game season], we know having fewer preseason games we as teams are gonna have to make it work and make sure we have the proper control of the situation and a practice plan to make it productive.’’
Dimitroff expects today to be productive “if we can focus on improvement on both sides, and not worry about who’s the baddest dude out there.’’
The teams will work separately during individual drills, then come together for group and team drills.
Dimitroff said the cerebral styles of the coaches should work well in the teaching environment a joint practice provides, as the teams get ready for this season and perhaps the seasons to come.
The music? Well, that might not be so up-to-date.