Racquets help in Texans' prep

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – As the Patriots prepare to face pass-swatting defensive lineman J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football”, the team will employ one of Bill Belichick’s unique coaching philosophies by using racquets at practice.

The 6-foot-5, 295-pound Watt has been credited with 15 passes defended this season, which highlights his uncanny ability to bat passes down at the line of scrimmage. To prepare for defenders such as Watt, Belichick often has scout-team defenders hold up racquets in practice.

“It’s hard, it’s challenging. There are ways to work on it in practice, with different guys. I know Coach Belichick likes to bring guys with racquetball paddles and stick those up in the air, which I’m sure there will be a whole bunch of those there this week,” quarterback Tom Brady said Wednesday.

“It doesn’t always make me very happy, but that’s probably a good way to prepare for it," Brady continued. "It’s like throwing over this wall. It’s hard. You just have to try to find an area. We played other big d-lines before, tall guys that are rangy and are really instinctive – the Giants did a great job of that last year – and this is another team that really challenges you to do that.”

This was a point ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi made in Tuesday’s ESPNBoston Patriots podcast.

On Wednesday, Brady was asked how often the team employs the unique coaching tactic of using racquets.

“They're always out there [in practice], in the bag," he said. "They'll be out there, I'm sure, starting today."

In his Wednesday news conference, Belichick joked the team might have to switch to brooms because they are longer and Watt and fellow defensive linemen such as Antonio Smith are long, disruptive players.

"They knock down a lot of balls, and it's not just knocked down balls, it's tipped balls for interceptions and everything else," Belichick said. "They're a very disruptive front .... they're tough to handle."