When the Patriots announced their training camp dates last week, it carried all the standard information you'd expect: Camp kicks off on July 26 on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium; it's the 16th consecutive training camp at the Patriots facilities in Foxboro; practice sessions remain free and open to the public.
What was not part of the announcement was when the Patriots might be getting together with another club for joint practice sessions.
The Patriots have held joint practices with other teams every year since 2012 (in 2011 there were no joint sessions following the lockout), but it looks like that streak will be broken this year barring any unforeseen late changes to the schedule. Typically Bill Belichick's club has worked out with clubs it will take on in preseason contests No. 1 or 2. Sometimes, as they did last season, the Patriots will square off with both of their first two preseason opponents.
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This year those two first Patriots opponents, both of which are traveling to Foxboro for the exhibition games, are the Redskins and Eagles. Washington has a unique partnership with the city of Richmond during training camp, which may have made a multi-day trip to New England difficult. Philadelphia, meanwhile, announced recently via coach Doug Pederson that it would not be participating in joint work this summer.
"I don’t think it’s an every-year thing. Last year it was great for us. It was a great change up to go against Miami,” Pederson said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Teams are already booked, teams are already full or doing other things. For us, it’s just let’s get better as a team.”
For the Patriots, if there are no joint practices, that will mean a few things.
First of all, it will mean the most competitive reps they take will likely have to come during preseason action. One of the reasons Belichick has been so in favor of joint sessions is because it gives players a chance to work against an unfamiliar opponent competitively, but in a relatively controlled environment. That's not the case during preseason action. The Patriots could hold competitive inter-squad scrimmages to help make up for the lack of joint-practice reps, but there's a reason the Patriots have gone out of their way to host an opponent or visit one in years past.
Second, no joint practices means the Patriots will lose a valuable scouting opportunity. Without a few days to work with another club, Belichick and his staff are down a few days of up-close-and-personal evaluation.
Every time the Patriots have met another team in camp since 2010, they've later taken a chance on an opposing player they saw during those practices. That includes last year when the Patriots worked against the Texans and later brought both Eric Lee (via the Bills practice squad) and Riley McCarron into their locker room. (There's still time for the Patriots to add someone they saw while practicing against the Jaguars last year.)
If there's one tangible impact the lack of joint practice sessions could have on the Patriots, it could be to their roster. Those workouts aren't the be-all-end-all when it comes to scouting, but they clearly have value.
Here's a full rundown of the Patriots joint-practice opponents who were eventually acquired by New England . . .
2017 vs. Texans: DE Eric Lee, signed off of Buffalo practice squad in 2017; WR Riley McCarron, signed to practice squad in 2017.
2016 vs. Saints: WR Brandin Cooks, acquired in a trade in 2016.
2016 vs. Bears: TE Rob Housler, signed to a future contract in 2016.
2015 vs. Saints: DL Akiem Hicks, acquired in a trade in 2015; LB Ramon Humber, signed as a free agent in 2016; Cooks.
2014 vs. Redskins: DL Frank Kearse, signed as a free agent in 2016; CB EJ Biggers, signed as a free agent in 2016.
2014 vs. Eagles: CB Bradley Fletcher, signed as a free agent in 2015.
2013 vs. Buccaneers: LB Jonathan Casillas, acquired in a trade in 2014; TE Tim Wright, acquired in a trade in 2014.
2013 vs. Eagles: S Patrick Chung, signed as a free agent in 2014; WR Damaris Johnson, claimed on waivers from Houston in 2015; CB Bradley Fletcher, signed as a free agent in 2015.
2012 vs. Saints: RB Travaris Cadet, signed as a free agent in 2015; Casillas; LB Ramon Humber, signed as a free agent in 2016; DL Akiem Hicks, acquired in a trade in 2015.
2012 vs. Buccaneers: RB LeGarrette Blount, acquired in a trade in 2013; CB Aqib Talib, acquired in a trade in 2012; Biggers; LB Dekoda Watson, signed as a free agent in 2015.
2011: No joint sessions following NFL lockout.
2010 vs. Saints: Humber; DE Will Smith, signed as a free agent in 2014.
2010 vs. Falcons: WR Michael Jenkins, signed as a free agent in 2013.