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Bill Belichick surprises Patriots by calling off practice, taking them bowling

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In what has become an annual tradition of sorts when the New England Patriots have a playoff bye, head coach Bill Belichick altered the schedule Friday away from traditional football preparation to more of a team-bonding experience.

In doing so, Belichick told players there wouldn't be a practice as scheduled, and they would instead be bowling at Splitsville, which is located at Patriot Place, a short walk away from the team's locker room. Because the facility had not yet opened to the public, the Patriots had it all to themselves and some players shared pictures on Snapchat.

Last year, Belichick had players go to the movies to see 'American Sniper' during the playoff bye week. In 2013, there was another trip to the movies during the playoff bye week to see "Lone Survivor."

Patriots players will have Saturday and Sunday off before returning Monday for meetings to officially begin preparations for their divisional round playoff game Jan. 16 at Gillette Stadium. They will play the Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans or Kansas City Chiefs.