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Getting the rookies ready to play

Posted by Albert Breer  August 14, 2010 09:37 AM

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There were four Patriot rookies in particular that got a ton of playing time on Thursday night: CB Devin McCourty, ILB Brandon Spikes, and TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

All four started the game and played into the fourth quarter, and that would seem to indicate that the coaches wanted to get a pretty good look at them. But there were other factors at work, too.

For one, Bill Belichick said yesterday that part of those decisions can be a result of depth at the respective positions.

For another, there's the conditioning aspect of it. If you're planning on guys playing big roles in September, August is the time to prepare them for that. And while training camp's great, part of getting those players ready is to prepare them for game situations from a conditioning standpoint, and game speed is tough to simulate.

"We run around the field and all of that and that’s great for conditioning, but it’s still not quite the same as the actually playing the game, and the intensity of it," Belichick said. "What actually occurs in the game and the conditioning levels that a player has to be in to play a game, again we try to simulate those in practice, but it isn’t quite the same. Whichever players play, when they’re in there, they get those opportunities and experiences, and when they don’t, then it goes to some other players.

"That’s why practicing against the Saints was so good. We really probably had the equivalent of, in terms of snaps, maybe three full games of snaps against the Saints instead of one. Everybody got to play more plays and I think that benefited our entire team."

As we continue to caution, it's dangerous to take too much from preseason games. But it's not a leap to think that the four aforementioned guys aren't exactly ticketed for "redshirt" rookie years.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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