With unfamiliar foe on tap, Bill Belichick is professor-like with pop quizzes

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the New England Patriots are preparing for a team they don't see on a regular basis, as is the case this Sunday with the Jacksonville Jaguars coming to town, veteran players know that usually means Bill Belichick turns from head coach to professor in their Wednesday morning meeting.

"Coach quizzed us pretty hard," quarterback Tom Brady confirmed.

The quiz was all about the Jaguars, and for some of the newcomers to the Patriots, it was unlike anything they've seen before.

"It's eye-opening," second-year tight end Michael Williams said. "You better know your personnel and who you're going against. Luckily, I didn't have a question [to answer], but I'm pretty sure in the coming weeks I will."

Williams spent his first two-plus seasons with the Detroit Lions and he can't recall anything like he experienced Wednesday. Former Lions coach Jim Schwartz had done it to a point in 2013, but nothing like the way Belichick directed the discussion with the Patriots.

For those who watched HBO's "Hard Knocks" with the Houston Texans this year, it's similar to what head coach Bill O'Brien did with his team during the program. No surprise there, as O'Brien is a former Belichick assistant.

So when Belichick started quizzing players Wednesday, former Texans receiver Keshawn Martin predictably thought to himself, "There are a lot of similarities."

That wasn't what veteran defensive end Jabaal Sheard was thinking, because after spending four years with the Cleveland Browns, this was something new to him.

"Definitely very different. It was like an awakening to make sure you're studying guys," he said. "Just to make sure you're on your P's and Q's when you come in for Wednesday meeting."

Sheard added that the quizzes keep all players on edge.

"You're always nervous to get called on, because you don't know what question is going to be asked," he said. "He could be asking about the owner. To think about knowing the owner is difficult, to know his background.

"It's definitely something new. You don't want to mess up a guy's name and any time you're taking a test, I think there's a little bit of nervousness there, but I think everybody in the room is pretty confident. We do a good job studying over here."

Sheard also explained that there is a give-and-take of information as part of the process. So while Belichick might be asking questions of players, he's also providing more insight, so there is a conversational aspect to it.

Veteran defensive tackle Alan Branch, now in his second season with the team after stints with Arizona (2007-10), Seattle (2011-12) and Buffalo (2013), said the quizzes are unlike anything he has seen.

"It's nerve-wracking and crazy having the head man up there. You know your stuff, but it's kind of like being quizzed in high school; you don't want to be called out and get something wrong and they're going to think you're not studying," he said.

"You're looking at him, waiting to see who he is calling, and kind of hoping it's not you, but going over the answers in your head when the other person is called.

"This is the only team I've ever had to do that with," he continued. "When I first got here, I didn't know what they were expecting. There was a crazy question about favorite food or something. Just seeing that when you first get here, you realize what kind of gig this is. You have to make sure you're studied up on your opponent. They have a certain expectation here to uphold, and maybe that's the reason we do so well here, because we know our opponent really well compared to other teams I've been on."