Bill Belichick is almost obnoxious at this point.
That's not a commentary on his personality, although based on how he handles the media, there are surely people that feel that way.
No, he's obnoxious, or perhaps it's obnoxious that he is consistently ahead of the curve when it comes to his New England Patriots and how they go about their business.
In 2007, after the team acquired Wes Welker, they put a beatdown on a bunch of NFL records en route to going 18-0 before narrowly falling to the Giants in the Super Bowl. They were really the first team to feature their slot wide receivers as primary pass catchers, and teams had very little answer for it. That strategy still works, which is why the Pats aren't the only team that gives their slot receivers such a high volume of targets.
A few years later, when they had two game-changing tight ends, they realized how problematic it was for defenses to have to try to defend against them on the field at the same time. Send your regular personnel out there? They'd split both tight ends out into a four or even five wide receiver look and take advantage of the mismatches. Send nickel personnel? They'd use those large tight ends as blockers and go with the ground game.
Even on the personnel side of things, the Pats have been at the forefront in a lot of ways. Belichick realized the tremendous value that second- and third-round picks represented in relation to the salary cap long before a lot of the other teams did. He also realized the incredible deals to be had trading for future-year picks if you had the job security of knowing you'd be with your team for a while and the long-term vision to execute it.
Many teams now use many of these elements within their own organizations.
It's time to add a new one to the list: joint practices.
Joint practices aren't "new" per se, but the volume with which the Patriots utilize them certainly is.
This summer, the Patriots have scheduled joint practice sessions with three separate opponents. It starts this week as the Patriots host the Jaguars before their preseason opener. After that, the Pats will practice with the Texans Aug. 15 and 16 before their Week 2 preseason game, and then one more time with the Lions before their Aug 25 preseason game.
Three joint practice sessions with other teams during one training camp? It appears to be unprecedented, although accurate records aren't really kept in that regard.
The reasoning traces back to the new CBA with the NFL players union that was signed back in 2011. It cut back significantly on the amount of practice time each team could have with its players, including eliminating infamous two-a-day padded practices.
Belichick's solution? Make the most of the limited available time that you do have by getting better work in against other opponents.
The intensity of a joint practice far exceeds that of a regular practice, because the guys you are hitting are no longer your teammates. They're the "other guys."
Plus, it gives the coaches for both teams the chance to better evaluate their personnel against a larger sample size of opponents, whether that is during the one-on-one periods, seven-on-seven periods, or even in the eleven-on-eleven team periods. The more players you can watch compete against the competition, the better idea you have of what they can do in a game.
The fact that different opponents have different schemes and fronts only adds to the number of variables you can introduce to your team to get them ready for the season and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.
As the expression goes, don't work harder, work smarter.
Or in Belichick's case, he has his teams working better because they aren't allowed to work longer. It's smart and something more teams should strongly consider to get the best quality work possible within the confines of the current CBA.
Frankly, if Belichick is doing it that's as good an indication as any that it's the smart thing to do.