Given this week's feisty - bordering on ferocious - joint practices at Gillette Stadium, there is abnormal anticipation for Friday's preseason game between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers.
Players from both teams were kicked out of practice, Patriots receiver Kristian Wilkerson suffered a concussion, both sidelines emptied multiple times and one skirmish Wednesday morning even spilled into the stands. So while doing the normal player evaluations that come with a second preseason game, all eyes will be on any extracurricular physicality between the teams.
As the Patriots prepare for perhaps some fighting, coach Bill Belichick also lamented that last week his team was the subject of too much blitzing. He suggested that the New York Giants were overly aggressive defensive in their 23-21 win in Foxboro last week.
Told of Belichick's semi-complaint, Giants' defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale turned the future Hall of Famer's iconic quote against him.
"We're on to Cincinnati," Martindale quipped with a smile, invoking Belichick's classic broken-record answer in 2014 after a blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Martindale is known as one of the NFL's most aggressive defensive play-callers. According Pro Football Focus, the Giants blitzed Patriots' rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe on 17 of his 33 dropbacks. By comparison, New England was only blitzed five times in its 2021 preseason opener against Washington.
Said Belichick, "With what the Giants were doing, there’s a lot of reasons for some of the things that we did just to try to manage the game. So, just leave it at that.”
While the Giants are "on to Cincinnati", the Patriots are lacing up the gloves in preparation for Carolina.