Matt Patricia is no longer in New England, but he hasn’t escaped the snow and all the football-related controversy that can come with it.
The Detroit Lions head coach is taking some heat over holding practice in the cold and snow Thursday, given that the team’s next four games will be played indoors. According to the Detroit Free Press, several staffers spent the practice shoveling and blowing snow off the field and at least one player still fell due to the slippery conditions.
While the former Patriots defensive coordinator sported shorts amid the steady snow and temperatures in the mid-30s (as he is wont to do), Lions cornerback Darius Slay somewhat bemusedly told reporters afterward that the practice was “rough” and strongly suggested he disagreed with Patricia’s decision.
“I ain’t the coach,” Slay said. “If I was the coach, yeah, you know what we’d be doing.”
Several national and local media outlets also questioned Patricia, noting that the Lions play their next four games — three at home and one in Arizona — under a roof. The 3-6 team does also have outdoor games scheduled at Buffalo and Green Bay in Weeks 15 and 17, respectively.
“You don’t want to try to get prepared for those the week of,” Lions running back LeGarrette Blount, another Patriots alum, told the Free Press.
Slay, who is in his sixth year with the Lions, noted that he’s played in colder games at Green Bay before.
“The field wasn’t like that,” he said, referring to Thursday’s practice.
Apparently sensitive to the criticism, Patricia delivered an unprompted, 900-word defense of the decision during his press conference Friday morning.
The 44-year-old coach began by saying that the team would practice in a manner that both helps them prepare for their opponent and looks outs for their health and safety. While the Lions held an indoor walkthrough on Wednesday, he said the “downside” of practicing inside on turf is that it wears on the joints of the team’s “bigger-bodied players.”
Being outside, on the other hand, allowed the team to prepare for “different elements” and “work on our fundamentals.”
“Practicing in some of those conditions — whether it’s mud, snow, loose grass, whatever the case may be — focuses most of the skill players to have to keep their feet underneath them to be able to break the low center of gravity and play technically sound, which is always good from a fundamental standpoint,” Patricia said.
During the rookie coach’s time as an assistant with the Patriots, Bill Belichick often held practice in the extreme cold and rain and, at times, snow — though last January’s blizzard did force them into the indoor bubble. Comparatively, the Lions’ practice Thursday wasn’t that cold or windy, according to Patricia.
“It was an easy day for us to go outside and get some good work done,” he said. “Working through conditions that are not ideal, as a football team, is also another benefit for us to take live learning environments and turn them into actual teaching moments outside also.”
Patricia said he hoped that he had put an end to the conversation — but not before adding a not-so-veiled jab at the local reporters, with whom he already shares a somewhat icy relationship, in attendance at Friday’s press conference.
“We’re going to be practicing inside today so everybody’s clear, all right?” he said. “Make sure everybody’s good for all the head coaches in the room on that.”
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford jokingly floated another theory for why Patricia had them go outside following Thursday’s practice.
“I figured coach wanted to do it to make you guys stand outside and watch us,” Stafford told reporters, according to the Free Press.