For years, basketball coaches have prepared their teams for shot-blockers by giving practice players tennis rackets.
The Patriots are only facing J.J. Watt and the Texans this week, not Dikembe Mutombo, so they’re using racquetball racquets.
“I know coach [Bill] Belichick likes to bring guys with racquetball paddles and stick those up in the air,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said, via Zuri Berry of the Boston Globe. “I’m sure there will be a whole bunch of those this week, which doesn’t always make me very happy. But that’s probably a good way to prepare for it. It’s like throwing over this wall, it’s hard.
“We’ve played other big lines before. Tall guys that are rangy. The Giants did a great job of that last year. This is another team that really challenges you to do that.”
Watt has 15.5 sacks this year, but another 15 passes defensed, or batted balls at the line of scrimmage.
“He’s an incredible player,” Brady said. “The way that he gets after the quarterback, stops the run. I think he does both those things well, stopping the run, rushing the quarterback, as well as defending the pass game with those balls batted down.
“So he’s as impressive a player as you could see on film with his agility, his quickness, his length, his instinctiveness to get his hands in the air to jump and bat balls down.”
As intriguing as the practice strategy might be, the bigger question might be what kind of racquetball player Belichick is.