FOXBORO – Playing the New England Patriots in their home stadium has been one of the toughest challenges for NFL teams over the last two decades. Whether it was the masterminds on the field or the rambunctious fans off of it, visiting teams certainly did not enjoy playing in Foxboro.
But one under-appreciated aspect of the game will be getting a facelift.
Gillette Stadium, the home of the Patriots since 2002, has always had an open tunnel next to the famed lighthouse that would impact the passing and kicking games, adding what head coach Bill Belichick called a “swirling effect.”
But now that ownership has begun construction on a $225 million renovation, including what the team says is “the largest outdoor stadium high-definition video board in the country.” The gaping tunnel, however, will be sealed.
Before the Patriots training camp practice on Tuesday, coach Bill Belichick admitted that the coaching staff has already discussed the new changes.
“Yeah we’ve definitely talked about it," Belichick said. "When we’re able to get into the stadium – we’ve had a lot of concerts and activity here but we’ll practice in there on Friday - that’ll give us some opportunities to work it. Absolutely, I think that will definitely affect the game, certainly affect the kicking everywhere, but especially in the open – whatever end that is, the far end, the lighthouse end. Absolutely, for sure, that’ll be a factor.”
And it is not just the coaches that need to be aware of the new change. Veteran kicker Nick Folk will need to change his approach to kicking when facing that side of the stadium.
Belichick is not worried about how that aspect with affect Folk adding, “I think it’s a big advantage for him. There’s a lot of good kickers in the league. Ultimately, it’s just about performance and production. Nick’s had a lot of it.”
While the fans and team can reap the benefits of the new scoreboard and amenities being adding, you might see a more even playing field when it comes to the kicking game in the future.
The Patriots will be hosting their annual in-stadium practice on Friday, so a first look at how the construction can affect the game will be available.