New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick believes he know why injuries are increasing in the NFL.
Belichick blames limits on offseason practices, including training camp, that comply with new NFL rules as the reason.
“I’m in favor of total preparation for the players for the season,” Belichick told reporters this week. “And I think that’s been changed significantly and, I would say, not necessarily for the better when you look at the injury numbers.”
NFL mandates on practice restrictions were put in place after the NFL labor deal in 2011 that ended an offseason lockout. There are no longer two-a-days during training camp, the number of days in pads is limited and offseason team activity was trimmed from 14 weeks to nine weeks.
“Personally, I think that’s taking the wrong approach,” Belichick said. “You have a gap between preparation and competition level. And I think that’s where you see a lot of injuries occurring. We get a lot of breakdowns. We get a lot of situations that players just aren’t as prepared as they were in previous years, in my experience anyway.”
Statistics point to injuries being on the rise leaguewide during the past 15 years.
The Patriots (11-4) have endured numerous injuries this season to key players: tight end Rob Gronkowski, offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, linebacker Jerod Mayo, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork and safety Adrian Wilson.
And yet New England is 11-4 and trying to lock up the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs on Sunday when it faces the Buffalo Bills.
The Patriots clinched the AFC East for the fifth-consecutive time with the Miami Dolphins’ loss to the Buffalo Bills Sunday. Because the Patriots beat the Broncos earlier this season, they hold the tiebreaker advantage.
For New England to get home-field advantage, the Patriots must beat the Bills in Foxborough, Mass., and the Broncos must lose to the Raiders.
Head coach Bill Belichick altered his Friday schedule a bit leading up to the Ravens game to allow his team to take in a special midday showing of the upcoming Mark Wahlberg film “Lone Survivor” at the movie theatre adjacent to Gillette Stadium. It depicts the true story of the failed SEAL Team 10 mission in 2005, dubbed “Operation Red Wings,” to kill or capture Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd.
“It was great,” Belichick said of the excursion. “Wahlberg is a huge Patriots fan. He’s a huge supporter.”
The coach then talked about what his team may have taken from the movie.
“The movie had messages of teamwork, leadership, perseverance, preparation and execution. Some good messages in it. No question. Great movie,” Belichick said.
Quarterback Tom Brady echoed those thoughts.
“It was a good experience for our team. That movie had a good message,” Brady said. “I thought it was great, great movie.”
CB Logan Ryan, a rookie third-round pick out of Rutgers, recorded a pair of interception of Joe Flacco in the win in Baltimore. Ryan now leads the Patriots, and all NFL rookies, with five interceptions on the season. He’s also tied for the AFC lead in picks, while ranking tied for fourth in the NFL.
It’s impressive production for a guy who’s seen limited playing time as a rookie, but displays the ball skills that were a part of the package that attracted the Patriots to Ryan in last spring’s draft.
“I think that was a big strongpoint of Logan’s. He was a very productive player in college,” Bill Belichick said.
“I think that a lot of the league-wide, a lot of the interest and the grades on him were high relative to his production. I think probably what hurt him a little bit was his 40 time at the Combine, just in terms of where he was drafted. But as we’ve seen this year throughout the year, it’s not only ball skills but I’d say an awareness or an instinctiveness, if you will, in terms of when to look for the ball, having an awareness of the ball being thrown and near his location and anticipating routes and being able to react to those routes sometimes a little bit before the ball is thrown and in some cases, maybe if he’s reading the quarterback a little bit before the receiver can get into his breaks. He’s had a number of plays like that, both in games and throughout the year in practices where you see his awareness and his instinctiveness, his understanding of the passing game and kind of getting that little one half step, split-second jump on the play. That’s shown up.
“He’s got good ball skills and good hands. I don’t think that’s ever been a question. But I think it’s that awareness and instinctiveness that’s obviously so hard to teach but it’s something that he just naturally does.”
LG Josh Kline made his first NFL start against the Ravens. The rookie free agent out of Kent State filled in for Logan Mankins, the Pro Bowl guard who bumped left to play left tackle the last two weeks. The lineup change worked, as the Patriots played without usual left tackle Nate Solder (concussion) and yet put together one of the team’s best all around performances of the season in the victory in Baltimore.
“Josh was a good player in college,” Bill Belichick said of his rookie fill-in. “(Offensive Assistant Coach) Brian Daboll worked him out in the spring and I think that was part of the impetus of our interest in him. He wasn’t drafted, we were able to recruit him and sign him as a college free agent. He’s played guard in college but we also worked him some at center. He played both center and guard in the preseason. Versatile guy, he’s got good intelligence. He was kind of on and off the roster a little bit early in the year. He’s worked hard and steadily improved through the course of the season in every area: his versatility, run blocking, pass blocking, work in the weight room. He’s given us confidence in the way that he’s practiced.
“We just felt yesterday that was the best way to go with the lineup. Of course Logan is one of our most dependable players and he certainly came through big yesterday playing left tackle against some pretty good players over there and definitely holding his own, doing a good job.”