Time of essence this week

Patriots cramming for Thursday game

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / November 23, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — Patriots coach Bill Belichick is known for compartmentalizing, for treating each week of the NFL season as its own entity.

Wins are savored for a little while, losses agonized over a bit longer, but then it’s on to the next game.

But this week, there isn’t any time for reflection.

Belichick, his coaches, and players walked off the field after their victory over Indianapolis Sunday night at around 7:10. They will kick off their next game, on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit, at 12:30 p.m. — a span of just 89 hours, or about half as many hours as they’d normally have between games to prepare, practice, and play.

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“A lot to do,’’ Belichick said yesterday. “We have to try to cram six days into three. I think the players came in with a good attitude, really tried to get a lot done. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re going to try and keep grinding it out here. It’s a big start for us and we have to try to find a way to get everything done here.’’

That means deviating from the usual, carefully crafted schedule the Patriots keep.

Mondays are usually a day for players to spend some time in the weight room and break down the previous day’s game film with coaches. Yesterday there was a walkthrough, a scouting report on the Lions, some installation of plays for Thursday’s game, and other meetings.

Today will be a long day. Normally the players’ day off, it instead will be spent at the only on-field practice of the week, and in meetings, with most of the remaining details of the game plan, including red zone and third-down plays, hopefully being nailed down. As Belichick noted, it will be like “a Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday combined.’’

It will be a week of mostly mental reps; the players’ bodies have to get sufficient rest to avoid being sore on game day.

“I think the biggest thing is this isn’t going to be a physical week,’’ tackle Matt Light said. “A lot of what you see on film and then what these guys show in practice, you have to be able to take those looks and understand some of the things [the Lions] do and go out there and execute. There’s a lot coming at you and you gotta squeeze a lot in.’’

Detroit, which is coming off a loss to Dallas Sunday, has the same short week that the Patriots do, though hosting a Thanksgiving game is an annual event for the Lions and therefore many of their players are used to the routine of the abbreviated week.

“It’s great to be in this routine. You’re in it every year,’’ Belichick said. “Having been [an assistant coach] in Detroit for two years, it was a game that you knew every year was your game. You knew you were going to be playing at home. You knew you were going to be playing at noon, and whatever the weekly routine is, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, in getting ready for it, it was the same thing you did last year.

“It was something you were comfortable with and you actually looked forward to and [you] didn’t have to travel, all those kinds of things. From a preparation standpoint, it’s the same amount of time and all that, but it’s something that you are used to doing because you do it every year. And the players are used to it.’’

Belichick was asked if the game plan would be simpler than it typically is, with fewer new plays and wrinkles. He said there will be some new looks installed, but likely not as many as usual.

“I think you have to pick your spots,’’ he said. “If you want to try and do something that is maybe a little bit different and specific for [Detroit], you might have to give it up somewhere else.

“I don’t think you can do it in all areas. You can maybe do a couple things, couple plays, but it’s not an infinite number. You just can’t practice it.’’

Light and wide receiver Deion Branch said the Patriots will have to get the most out of the time they have.

“I think just being mentally into every practice . . . be able to dial it up,’’ Light said. “Physically, yeah, you’re going to be a little sore, but by the time the game starts all that stuff kind of dissipates.

“But mentally you have to focus in on the little things and you have to understand, No. 1, this is a team we don’t know a whole lot about and we haven’t seen them in a while so there’s a lot of things we have to understand about them and how they do what they do.’’

The last time New England played on Thanksgiving was in 2002 — Light, Branch, and Tom Brady are the only current Patriots who played in that game.

“I think the thing is we have to push each other,’’ Branch said. “The downside is you don’t get enough practice, and that’s where the vets will have to push guys. But the upside is we get to play sooner, which is what we all love to do.’’

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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