Perhaps the New England Patriots really are smarter than everyone else.
Or, perhaps Patriots coach Bill Belichick, widely regarded as the GOAT [Greatest Of All Time], is out-thinking himself this time.
Or, as former Dolphins and NFL wide receiver Chris Chambers suggested, perhaps South Beach, Wynwood, Las Olas or Atlantic Avenue will be Belichick’s downfall.
Whatever the case, the Patriots are headed our way Tuesday, according to reports, with practices beginning Wednesday. Yep, Belichick is moving the team’s entire operation to South Florida to prepare for Sunday’s season opener against the Dolphins and the scorching heat at Hard Rock Stadium — where temperatures are expected to be in the 90s.
It’s called short-term heat acclimation, and the idea is force-feeding your body days of the heat and humidity before the game so it’s adjusted by kickoff.
In my previous decade-plus of covering the Dolphins, I can’t recall any team coming down days ahead of a September game.
And I hate to tell you this, Dolphins fans, but experts say Belichick is onto something mentally and physically.
“Psychologically, I would say it’s an advantageous idea,” said Dr. Brian Foster, coordinator of the sports psychology masters program at Florida State University.
Foster made it clear he was only addressing the mental aspect of this experiment.
So for the physical aspect, I reached out to Dr. Brian Schilling, a professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas whose research looks at the physical demands of military and law enforcement, among others, and examines how they can best train to meet those demands.
Schilling also thinks it’s a good idea.
“You’ve got a 53-man roster,” Schilling said, “and some guys are going to adapt more than others, obviously. But it’s better than nothing.
“It’s smart. If I were coach Belichick, I’d be doing the same thing.”
Chambers, wide receivers coach at Keiser University as well as overseeing the performance division of Lifetime Fitness in Boca Raton, also likes the idea “even if it only helps two or three players.”
Chambers, a fitness expert of sorts, said New England’s early arrival should aid their rest and recovery. He pointed out South Florida just had one of its hottest Augusts on record and Dolphins players are acclimated. Removing day-before-the-game travel is also a good idea, Chambers said.
“I’d be more worried about the guys hanging out,” Chambers warned.
By coming to South Florida days early, Belichick might be inviting trouble to his team. Often west coast teams would travel east on Friday to acclimate to the three-hour time zone change. And it helps.
But . . .
“We used to go out on Friday in the city we were in,” Chambers said.
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel acknowledged this move doesn’t fit Belichick’s past behavior. But McDaniel also said he thinks actions such as these are team-specific.
“Clearly he feels like it’s important for this team,” he said.
McDaniel, however, said it probably won’t determine the game’s outcome.
“I don’t think it’ll be the reason they win or lose,” he said, “it’ll just be a contributing factor to either.”
Every year we hear about teams doing things to prepare for harsh road conditions whether it’s blaring crowd noise during practice, cranking up the heat in the indoor practice facility, or college teams loudly and repeatedly playing the opponent’s fight song during practice.
“If you’re an athlete and you’re thinking about the humidity while you’re playing, that’s something that’s taking your attention away from what you should ideally be focused on during your performance,” Foster said.
“And so by bringing that stressor to your attention in advance and making it part of your awareness, you’re then preparing yourself for it to become normalized so that then your attention is not focused on that during performance from a psychological standpoint.”
We’ll see whether it makes a difference.
New England has lost four of its last five games at Hard Rock Stadium.
McDaniel, a veteran coach at the tender age of 39 years old, knows how this move will ultimately be judged by Patriots fans and the NFL world. He’s seen this movie before.
“You know what?” McDaniel concluded, “It’s always right if they win, and it’s up for debate if they lose.”