Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New England Patriots [Print without images]

Friday, May 21, 2010
Benefits & risks of scrimmage

By Mike Reiss

When Bill Belichick went on the radio with Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff in a light-hearted setting today on 92.9 Dave FM, and joked about who would be picking out the music when the teams scrimmaged this preseason, one of the first things that came to mind was Belichick previously touching on preseason scrimmages.

It took a while, but this is what Belichick said back on Aug. 2, 2005.

"I think you see plenty of teams doing it. It's just a question of the logistics of it. Also where you think your team is and what benefits your team," he said. "There are plenty of teams that do it. I've done it. I think there is a lot of value to it. We have not done it. That is OK too. You can still utilize your time efficiently.

"I think when training camps were longer, when they were more in three to three-and-a-half weeks before the first preseason game, those scrimmages would break up the monotony of going against the same guys over and over, but really in the situation that the league is in now, you kind of have 10 days of camp. Then you got four or five days before that first preseason game. 

"You have to put some sort of preparation into that first game just so when the players go out there, they have a chance to execute against that opponent so you can evaluate it. If you never practice against your first opponent and then they go out there and the players don't perform and then you sit there and say 'How much of it was we didn't practice against them and how much of it is we just didn't do well?' Then that causes some mis-evaluations."

The scrimmage between the Patriots and Falcons will come prior to both teams' second preseason game. Here is my opinion on some of the benefits and risks of a preseason scrimmage:

BENEFITS
1. Breaking up the monotony of training camp with a fresh approach, which could spark players.

2. A new level of competitiveness that can't be reached in a training camp setting because it involves another team, which could help the Patriots' own personnel evaluations.

3. Environment that fosters togetherness in the team-building process.
 
RISKS
1. Injuries as teams get away from the more controlled environment of training camp. For example, one fear of coaches is that a long shot rookie looking to impress could injure a veteran by not holding up at the whistle.

2. In scrimmaging another team, you give them a closer look at all of your players and they could wind up signing them should they become available -- which could hurt a team looking to slide the players onto their practice squad.

3. Fights. Last year's Saints-Texans scrimmage included a few dust-ups (see Houston Chronicle link), which seems to highlight the fine line teams are walking in scrimmages between reaching that desired intensity level but keeping things in line.