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Patriots to return to the field for training camp

Patriots: New England Nation

ATLANTA – AUGUST 11: A detailed view of a New England Patriots helmet prior to the NFL preseason game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons on August 11, 2006 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo By Streeter Lecka)

FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) – New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick enjoys all parts of football.

At least that’s what he told reporters Wednesday, the day before the team kicks off this season’s training camp.

“From beginning to end, offseason, in-season. I enjoy all of it,” he said.

Belichick is heading into his 20th season and said he’s approaching this year the same way he has approached every year: one day at a time.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be here. I enjoy coaching our team,” he said. “I hope I can do a good job. I want to try to give them the best that I can and put ourselves, put our team, put our individual players and coaching staff in the best position that we can to compete. I hope I can do that this year.”

Safety Devin McCourty said while no one really enjoys training camp, it is essential heading into the season.

“I think you understand, especially as you get older, not everything that’s really rewarding and that you’ll like in the end is always fun,” McCourty said. “I always think of training camp like that, but there are days out there that are really fun.”

Belichick said the format for the first couple of days will be similar to the team’s Mini Camp practices. He added that the team will take part in joint practices with the Detroit Lions and the Tennesee Titans leading up to the preseason games.

Quarterback Tom Brady is also in his 20th year with the team, and for the first time in his career, he’s entering a contract year.

Wide receiver Matthew Slater said Brady is approaching his role as captain the same way he always does.

“He takes nothing for granted,” Slater said. “He prepares himself just as any professional should. Day in and day out, he’s ready to go. He takes care of himself and he comes in here with a lot of excitement and joy. I think he realizes how special the opportunity he has each and every year – to be a part of this team – is, and that’s contagious for all of us.”

Of course, media day wouldn’t be complete without any mention of former tight end Rob Gronkowski, who retired from football soon after the Patriots won Super Bowl LIII.

The question remained on the minds of many during media day: Will Gronkowski make a surprise return to football?

McCourty said if he did, they would receive him with open arms.

“For us as players, we don’t have time to think about that,” he said. “I think at the end of the day he’ll do what’s best for him, but anybody that comes in this locker room is always welcomed with open arms whether it’s from retirement, from your eighth team, it doesn’t matter.”

Running back James White said there’s no one like Gronkowski and not having him in the locker room or on the field will be difficult to adjust to.

“There’s only one Gronk,” White said. “You can’t replace that personality. He’s a great football player, but you’ve got to play with who’s out here.”

The team is still looking to fill the tight end void and recently signed Lance Kendricks to a one-year deal.

The four, two-hour training camp sessions will be free for fans to attend. Entrances will open approximately 1 hour before practice begins and will remain open until one hour after practice ends.

Patriots training camp will take place July 25-28 and will begin at 9:15 a.m. each day.

On Monday, the team will induct former Patriots Rodney Harrison and Leon Gray into the Patriots Hall of Fame. After the ceremony, the team will hold its annual in-stadium practice for season ticket holders beginning at 7 p.m.

The Patriots will begin the preseason on Aug. 8, playing against the Lions led by former Patriots Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia. The team will ultimately begin its title defense in September when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers, where they plan to unveil their newest Super Bowl championship banner.

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