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New England Patriots begin work at Air Force with weights, address from Troy Calhoun

November 14, 2017 Updated: November 16, 2017 at 9:31 am
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The New England Patriots are taking advantage of the high altitude fields at the Air Force Academy to get ready for this weekend's game with the Raiders in Mexico City. They had their first practice on the practice field at the Academy on Wednesday, November 15, 2017. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

Air Force football players have some questions for the New England Patriots.

Falcons kicker Luke Strebel wants to pick the brain of Stephen Gostkowski to find out how he keeps his leg strong through a season. Cornerback Marquis Griffin, well, he just wants to talk with any of the Super Bowl champs.

“I would really like to meet Tom Brady, to be honest,” Griffin said. “Or any of them just to get some insight from them. That would be awesome. Anything that he’s willing to share with me or the team, that would be super beneficial.”

It doesn’t look as if the players will have that opportunity for interaction. The Patriots are two days into their week of training at the academy between games in Denver and Mexico City and haven’t crossed paths with cadets. That will likely remain the case until Friday, when the team is slated to address the cadet wing during lunch from atop the staff tower at Mitchell Hall.

By then the football team will be on the way to Boise.

“I kind of was (disappointed),” Griffin said. “At the same time, they have a game to get ready for; we have a game to get ready for. It’s all business.”

Talk of the Patriots visit has understandably been a hot topic among cadets.

“I had four or five people come up to me to ask if we get to hang out with the team,” senior fullback Jacob Stafford said. “I was like, ‘Uh, they kind of do their own thing.’ I don’t have too many answers for them, honestly.”

The Patriots began their business at the academy when a small group of players came out Monday to run. On Tuesday the team lifted weights behind locked doors, though coach Bill Belichick invited Air Force coach Troy Calhoun in to address the team.

“There’s not a great deal that you’re going to say to them other than I think they’re great examples of the way you play a sport with their work ethic, the class that they have and how well they play it, too,” Calhoun said.

New England will practice Tuesday through Friday in workouts that will be closed to the public -- a policy enforced through a private security firm.

Air Force didn’t reveal what the Patriots are paying for the use of the facilities, but said their time would be added up at the conclusion of the stay and the charge would be the same as it would be for any other teams, using club soccer as an example.

The team will dress and operate out of the locker rooms at Falcon Stadium, then bus up to the practice fields to the west of the Clune Arena. They will have the option of using the indoor facilities at the Holaday Athletic Center, but they have expressed a desire to use the grass practice fields because they will be playing on grass at Mexico City.

They bused to Colorado Springs after defeating the Broncos on Sunday night.

"It’s pretty cool to be out here,” quarterback Tom Brady said in a radio appearance on WEEI's "Kirk & Callahan Show,” "and kind of see the Air Force Academy and check out everything that it has to offer and kind of the history of this university, so it should be a really informational, learning, cultural type week that we never really get an opportunity to do."

Though New England’s as-yet fluid plans don’t so far include interactions with football players, Belichick sounds like he intends to expose his team to at least some of the life those players live.

“It is a highly competitive institution that is very difficult to get in, and very difficult to achieve a standard they require to graduate as an officer in the United States Air Force,” Belichick, the son of a former Navy assistant, told WEEI. “They do a tremendous job of training men and women to serve and defend our country, and they’re highly skilled in operating the most advanced, powerful equipment in the world, as well as having great discipline and leadership, and being in top physical condition to perform their jobs.

“It’s a great institution and a great opportunity for us to work in that type of environment that demands that high level of performance on a daily basis. So we’ll try to make the most out of it.”

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