New Orleans Saints interim coach Joe Vitt told the media Wednesday that he received a fax from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick with the idea of holding joint practices during training camp. It would be the second time the two teams have done such an event having held joint practices in 2010 prior to a preseason game at Gillette Stadium with 16,455 fans in attendance.
While the idea of a joint practice between two teams seems to be a good idea, it would be a horrible public relations move for the Patriots at this time. The Patriots took a big PR hit in 2007 when reports came out that the Patriots had taped opponent’s practices. The ensuing investigation was labeled “spy-gate” by the national media and changed the public opinion of a once renowned franchise.
Following the 2011 season, it was revealed that the Saints had established a bounty program on certain opposing players since 2009. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had encouraged payment to players that injured opposing offensive players with the support of head coach Sean Payton. This controversy was given its own label, “bounty-gate”. Upon the disclosure that the Saints had been warned to stop their bounty program since 2009 and had repeatedly lied to commissioner Roger Goodell about that fact, they have become the pariah of the NFL.
For a franchise trying to distance themselves from their misdeeds in 2007, the last thing they should do is to associate themselves with a franchise going through a worse controversy. While the idea of a joint practice during the offseason for fans to enjoy is inspiring, certainly the Patriots could find a team that would be willing to participate and not risk damaging their public image.
The Patriots also held joint practices in 2010 with the Atlanta Falcons which took place in Flowery Branch, Georgia prior to a preseason game between the two teams. This is proof that there are other teams that would be interested in such an idea. The Patriots could probably tempt a closer team such as one of the New York or Philadelphia teams to participate.
The idea of holding joint practices with other teams is not a bad idea as it should help their team prepare for the upcoming season against lesser known opponents. However, the Patriots also must think of the business side of their decisions. The Patriots and Saints are two franchises that many already closely associate due to unsavory acts in the past. Joining together so soon following such a scandal would be a poor decision.