Bill Belichick on Patriots rookies: ‘They’re in deep water — and turbulent water — and it’s going to get rougher’

Padded practices begin Monday.

So far, Bill Belichick has remained stone-faced about the pandemic.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick expects to learn a lot more about the team’s rookies in “the next week to 10 days,” he said Friday morning via WebEx conference.

After sticking to meetings and walkthroughs for the opening weeks of training camp, the Patriots held their first team practice Friday, with padded practice expected to begin Monday. Friday’s session marked the first day of high-tempo team drills, as players were previously limited to individual work.

For the rookies, the start of practices will only add to their growing workload.

“They’re in deep water — and turbulent water — and it’s going to get rougher,” Belichick said. “It’s a really hard-working group. They haven’t been any problem. They’re just trying to do the best they can, but they’re swimming. They’re in deep water. Their eyes get opened every day as we move up in the process.”

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Belichick pointed to the mental and physical demands of being a rookie, highlighting the increased volume and level of competition.

“We’re doing more now than we did before, so each day is an acclimation day and an adjustment day for them,” Belichick said. “I think they’re just trying to keep their head above water and try to swim or paddle in the right direction, knowing that they’re not really able to keep up, but they’re doing the best they can.”

The Patriots have 19 rookies — nine drafted and 10 undrafted — on their roster. (Seventh-round pick Dustin Woodard retired from football earlier this week.) Not all will make the team’s final 53-man roster, and, with the cancellation of all preseason games, practices are the only medium for players to prove themselves on the field.

Belichick emphasized the rookies have made progress and are working hard, but they all still have “a long way to go.”

As for how new addition Cam Newton is doing?

Belichick said Newton, as well as New England’s other three quarterbacks, has been “locked-in” and focused. He noted, however, the team is still far from “anything close to real football,” so the evaluation process remains in the early stages for all positions.

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“We haven’t played at anywhere near the speed that we’re going to playing at,” he said. “So, we’ll see how it all comes together at that point.”

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