FOXBORO, Mass. — Even Bill Belichick knows that training camp is a grind.
On Wednesday night, the Patriots coach treated his players to a viewing of “The Fighter,” the critically acclaimed 2010 film that tells the inspiring real-life story of boxer Micky Ward, a native of Lowell, Mass.
The Patriots were joined by Ward himself for the show, which was held at the theater inside Gillette Stadium typically utilized for film sessions.
“We’ve been in camp for a long time, been watching a lot of film at night – practice film, opponent film and everything, so we decided to go to the movies to make it a little more enjoyable,” Belichick said. “Popcorn, candy out there, let them relax a little bit. Sometimes your teams work hard and they deserve a break from the normal routine.
“I think they enjoyed it. It was a good night.”
Ward addressed the team and fielded questions following the movie.
“I’m a big boxing fan, so I truly enjoyed meeting him,” wide receiver Deion Branch said. “For this guy to come in and share some of the things about what went on in his life and some of the adversity he went through growing up, that was great.”
Branch and fellow receiver Chad Ochocinco posted photos of themselves with Ward on their Twitter accounts.
Earlier on Wednesday, singer Jon Bon Jovi — a longtime friend of Belichick — and Boston College men’s hockey coach Jerry York attended practice.
“Pretty big day for us yesterday,” Belichick said.
Right back at ya
Informed on Thursday that Jets coach Rex Ryan had called him the best coach in the NFL, Belichick was appreciative, but not overly so.
“It’s a nice compliment. I’ll take it,” Belichick said. “I don’t think it really means anything, but it’s nice. I think we all know I have a lot of respect for him and his program down there too, so kind of right back at him with that one.”
Said Ryan in a Wednesday interview with NFL Network, “I can put my resume out there, stats, with anybody that’s ever coached in this league. That’s a fact. Defensively, that’s a fact. But I don’t need any credit. I just want to win. I want what Bill Belichick’s got.
“I think Bill Belichick is the best coach in this game. I don’t even think it’s close.”
Now in his second tour of duty under Belichick, Branch has a special appreciation for the three-time Super Bowl champion head coach.
“I truly enjoy playing for Coach Belichick,” Branch said. “Me personally, I think he’s one of the greatest coaches and I’m loving the opportunity to get to play for him.”
Eleven-year veteran Andre Carter has a unique perspective regarding NFL coaches, having played for six of them before Belichick.
It hasn’t taken the defensive end long to understand why Belichick is a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
“I see why he’s successful, why he’s definitely an X’s and O’s guy,” Carter said. “I mean, just detail in general, I’ve never seen a coach so hands-on. But it’s great, because he takes pride in his job and takes pride in his craft.”
A series of 11 Albert Haynesworth-related questions posed by an NFL Network reporter on Thursday tested Belichick’s well-known reluctance to share information with the media.
Not surprisingly, the coach didn’t budge one bit.
The exchange centered on Haynesworth’s 19-day absence from practice, with Belichick refusing to divulge why the defensive lineman missed time.
Asked if Haynesworth was hampered by an injury or out of shape, Belichick said, “He missed practice because he wasn’t ready to practice.”
Was it a coincidence that Haynesworth returned to practice on Tuesday, one day after the assault case brought against him in Washington had been settled?
“I don’t know,” Belichick said.
What is known is that Haynesworth practiced for the third consecutive day on Thursday, improving his chances of playing in Saturday’s preseason game against the Lions in Detroit.
News and notes
The Patriots wore shells and shorts for Thursday’s practice, which did not include 14 players, notably cornerback Leigh Bodden, linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, running back Stevan Ridley, linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive lineman Mike Wright. Running back Shane Vereen practiced for the second straight day after a hamstring injury sidelined him for the past three weeks. … It sounds as if Wright’s three-week absence from practice is unrelated to the concussion that caused him to miss the final seven games of last season. “I don’t think anything that happened last year right now is related to anything going on this year,” Belichick said. … Belichick doesn’t anticipate the team’s travel plans to and from Detroit being impacted by Hurricane Irene. “Hopefully we’ll be in [from Detroit] before it comes in,” he said. “But definitely we have to keep an eye on it and kind of batten down the hatches. At this point, it looks like we’ll be in and out before it hits.”