The results of the NFLPA survey didn't reflect well on the Patriots, but how much of it matters?
Perry: Are the results from the recent NFLPA survey cause for concern in Foxboro? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
After discussions with various members of the Patriots organization following the release of the recent NFLPA's "Team Report Cards" survey, here's a little more context on some of the responses pertaining to New England ...
Players believe these grades could impact free-agent decision-making if the money offered is the same between potential destinations. The financial component of a new deal will always be the priority. And it's unusual that two teams competing for a player would ever settle on the same final offer. But if a player needs a tie-breaker, some believe this kind of assessment could be a determining factor.
The Gillette Stadium weight room received the lowest grade on the survey for the Patriots: D. Multiple players indicated to me that the quality of the weight room was not necessarily impacting their ability to succeed on the field. "I don't need flashy things," said one. "That's not gonna help us win games."
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However, relative to other weight rooms the Patriots saw in 2022, players clearly felt theirs didn't stack up. The team spent a week during training camp with the Raiders at what Bill Belichick called "the Taj Mahal of football facility." They spent a week at the University of Arizona, using its impressive facilities, following their game against the Cardinals in December. The Patriots have also spent time at UCLA during a West Coast trip in 2020.
"It's not impacting wins and losses. It's more about the presentation. But you also see those things and say, 'Why do we not have that?' " Players believe there's equipment that may be 20 years old in their weight room.
The Patriots travel grade was the second-lowest grade for the team on the survey: D+. As was the case with the weight room, this was a category where one word that popped up in the NFLPA survey arose again. "Dated."
That's how some in the organization described the team plane. In the conversations I had, there were no issues raised about the seating situation. Fifty-four percent of players felt as though they had enough room to spread out, per the survey. But overhead space for luggage is considered limited, and some players have experienced landings described as "rough."
The training room received a C- on the union's survey. That may pertain, in part, to how the Patriots handle things philosophically relative to other clubs.
"Overall belief is that the training room lacks equipment," per the survey. But in New England, as it was explained to me, there's an emphasis on having physical therapists and other health professionals working hands-on with players rather than relying on equipment in the same way other clubs might. For example, with other teams, there may be a variety of machines -- ultrasound units, "stim" machines, etc. -- available for players to use that might not be available in the same quantity at One Patriot Place. But players I spoke to indicated that that was by design.
What also may have impacted the grade here were what some players consider to be smaller tubs and hot tubs that "sometimes work, sometimes don't."
The Patriots are already working on upgrading their football facilities. A new 120,000 square foot office building -- a four-story structure -- has gone up on the east-facing side of Gillette Stadium, next to the team's pro shop. The first two floors will be dedicated to football operations. (The Kraft Group and its subsidiary, International Forest Products, occupy the other floors.)
As part of the eventual football ops reorganization, there will be more weight-room space. Training room space may also be impacted, though there is some uncertainty as to when the Patriots portion of the new building will be ready for use.
The project has been in the works for some time. Matt Patricia, it's my understanding, played a key role in spearheading how the football ops space would be designed. His job within the organization changed drastically going into last season when he went from a do-it-all assistant for Bill Belichick (including helping oversee the layout of new facility space) to the team's de-facto offensive coordinator. Patricia may leave the team this offseason; new Broncos coach Sean Payton recently indicated they could be working together in Denver soon after Patricia interviewed to be Payton's defensive coordinator last month.
The Patriots have been a bit limited in terms of the amount of space they have to improve their facilities. All but six teams, including the Patriots, have separate practice facilities that function as their during-the-week workplaces. The Raiders practice facility, for instance, is in Henderson, Nevada, which is about a 15-minute drive from Allegiant Stadium. If they ever wanted to do it, finding room for a separate facility may mean finding new ways -- maybe turning to the lower practice field behind Gillette Stadium, which the Patriots use occasionally but the Revs no longer need since their new facility was built -- to use existing space. Or going elsewhere.
Those in the organization believe one of Robert Kraft's strengths as an owner is his ability to communicate with his employees -- Patriots players in particular. According to those I spoke to, it would come as little surprise if this survey prompts conversations with player leadership about finding ways to improve their workplace experience.