Comparing bye week approach

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In having a four-day work week for players during the bye, coach Bill Belichick has slightly altered course from his approach last year. We'll see if it pays off.

Last year, Belichick had full-pads practices on the Wednesday and Thursday of the bye. They were the only two days of practice that week.

This year, Belichick passed on the chance for a single full-pads practice (which would have been allowed by league rules) and instead had the players on the field Wednesday and Thursday in light shoulder pads.

So from a pure physical standpoint with players, Belichick has loosened things up this year. Players have appreciated it, with several pointing out the value of being able to rest after a demanding 16-game regular season.

Yet in doing so, it seems like Belichick has challenged the players more from a mental perspective, with an extra day of meetings during the bye week. Last year, players were off Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This year, Belichick had them in for meetings on Friday.

Part of that could be tied to when the Patriots play their first playoff game -- last year it was Sunday afternoon vs. the Jets, this year it will be Saturday night. That pushes everything up one day.

Still, one could draw the conclusion that perhaps Belichick went back to his notes on how he handled the bye last year and decided he at least wanted his players around football and Gillette Stadium more, even if they weren't banging on the field.