Upbeat Bill Belichick hopes trip to Frankfurt can spur Patriots to improve against Colts

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Despite the Patriots’ 2-7 record, coach Bill Belichick was in an unusually upbeat mood Friday and said he hoped his team could enjoy the experience of playing against the Indianapolis Colts in Germany.

Belichick and the Patriots have a 3-0 all-time record in regular-season international games — the last in 2017 — but haven’t played in Germany. The team is coming off a 20-17 loss to the Washington Commanders last week.

“We play a lot of NFL games and this is one that will be a little bit different, just like Mexico City and London were,” Belichick said. “It’s a good opportunity for our team. We’ll just make the most of it and enjoy it, obviously focus on playing well, regaining our focus and preparation here, the next couple of days. Go out there and hopefully play our best game of the year on Sunday. That’s our goal.”

The Patriots are looking for the first win outside their division this season as they play the Colts (4-5). New England’s dismal start this year is the franchise’s worst since Belichick’s first season with the team in 2000.

Belichick said he’s loved visiting Germany before, though he questioned the catering choice for the media at practice — “pretzels for lunch?” — and predicted the tight travel schedule after arriving Friday morning meant he wouldn’t see much of Frankfurt.

“We’ll see how it goes. I’m kind of running on fumes here,” he said.

Belichick’s demeanor in front of the media Friday comes amid speculation about the 71-year-old’s job security with New England.

“I don’t know if it’s Germany or not,” defensive back Jabrill Peppers said of Belichick’s apparent change in attitude. “But we’ll see how he is on game day.”

It’s not just Belichick hoping to use the international trip to turn around the Patriots’ season.

“The biggest thing is it is a good team bonding experience,” quarterback Mac Jones said. “To be in another country and spread the game of football and do it together is very important.”

For running back Ezekiel Elliott, it’s an ideal “change of pace” to strengthen team spirit. “We have the perfect time right in the middle of the season right before the bye week,” he said. “I think this would be a good opportunity for us to spend a little more time than we usually do get to spend together.”

The Patriots listed three players out and nine as questionable Friday, making for an uncertain wait ahead of Sunday’s game.

Belichick confirmed offensive tackle Trent Brown had not made the trip to Germany with the team. Asked if it was related to personal reasons or his ankle injury — both mentioned in the injury report — Belichick said “both.” Wide receiver DeVante Parker is out with a concussion.

Cornerback J.C. Jackson, who was traded from the Los Angeles Chargers last month, also didn’t travel with the team. Belichick indicated he expected Jackson would be available following the trip to Germany. Jackson was listed as not practicing for personal reasons. The Patriots have a bye week before playing the New York Giants on Nov. 26.

The nine questionable players include linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (hamstring), cornerback Jonathan Jones (knee) and defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. (shoulder). All were listed as on limited practice Friday, as were two new additions to Friday’s injury report, special teams expert Matthew Slater (ankle) and cornerback Jack Jones (knee).

For the Colts, tight end Drew Ogletree is ruled out with a foot injury he suffered in last week’s 27-13 win over the Carolina Panthers, and cornerback JuJu Brents did not travel with a quad injury.

The Colts listed three players as questionable. Wide receiver Alec Peirce (ankle) and linebacker Zaire Franklin (knee) both had full practices Friday, while wide receiver Josh Downs did not practice with a knee issue.

SOCCER CONNECTIONS

The Patriots are the home team in Germany — and one of five NFL teams with marketing rights in the country — and they’re feeling right at home at their practice location. The Patriots are based out of the state-of-the-art DFB Campus, the home of the German national soccer teams.

Patriots special teams stalwart Slater was pleased with the German national team soccer jersey he won in a trivia competition with Elliott on Friday. “To have a moment like that, you certainly appreciate it. To be able to laugh a little bit, have some fun,” Slater said. “I’ll give this to my kids, they’ll enjoy it.”

Sunday’s game is being played at Deutsche Bank Park, the home of one of Germany’s biggest soccer clubs, Eintracht Frankfurt. That could be the perfect stage for Colts kicker Matt Gay, who once aspired to an international soccer career and played two years of college soccer before switching to football as a walk-on.

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.