When Bill Belichick drops one of his favorite lines in a press conference, "It is what it is," it's more than his way to let someone know he's done answering a question. It's an approach to his job that's echoed by his players when they stand in front of their lockers and repeat, "Control what we can control."
It's a stoic way of doing business. It's the way business has been done in New England for two decades. It's the way business will continue to be conducted as the Patriots deal with COVID, apparently.
The rules are what they are. The protocols are what they are. The cuts to practice time and preseason competition are what they are. It sounded on Friday afternoon as though Belichick had long since come to grips with those things. And though these are unprecedented times, there is a relevant comparison for the condensed offseason schedule, Belichick explained.
Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis
If colleges can operate with no preseason games and very little time to evaluate their rosters, he explained, why can't we?
"We'll just have to take advantage of our practice opportunities and create as much -- a combination of -- competition to evaluate the players and also situations to get our players ready to play in regular season games. Combine those things as we go forward.
"It'll be a little different setup but that's what college teams do every year. I think ever since the beginning of college football . . . I dunno about all the way back when Rutgers started in the 1870s, but you know, that's the way it's been. You go to camp for three weeks and then you start the season. There are no preseason games, you evaluate your team, and you get ready to play. That's what all college football teams do.
"I don't think it's anything that's revolutionary here. We haven't done it that way in the National Football League for a while, I certainly haven't done it that way, haven't coached in college. But as a college player and being around college programs growing up, I remember those periods of time leading up to the start of the season and teams had their scrimmages . . . ways to prepare their team and at the same time evaluating players. It's a process that certainly goes into the early part of the season. It's just football. That's all. I don't really see it any differently."
Belichick's ability to verbally shrug his shoulders at the lack of rookie minicamps, OTAs and preseason games could be invaluable during a season when excuses (valid ones, of course) will be readily available to any team wanting one. It's just not going to be something upon which Belichick lingers, either with his team or in the media.
Over time he's proven effective at helping his roster maintain focus, and that focus will certainly be put to the test in 2020 -- even before the games begin. Players are going to be tasked with absorbing key information as the league smashes together its offseason program and training camp schedule into the month of August.
But that's just the job. This year, at least. Better adjusted quickly.
"That's the way it went this year," Belichick said. "That's the way it went in 2011. Some years are different than other years. There's nothing we can do about that. Can't change it. Just try to make the most of every opportunity we have going forward that's all we can do."