FOXBORO — Bill Belichick was in one of those moods Friday.
The Patriots head coach was in one of those happier, jovial moods. So, he dipped into his stand-up material and opened Friday’s press conference at Gillette by letting everyone know he hasn’t been in a cave.
“Glad to see everyone is still here,” Belichick quipped, referencing the fact that the Mayans weren’t calling for gloom, doom and the end of the world but rather just turning the calendar page just like Belichick does every day at his job.
As for his team, Belichick moved them indoors and out of the brutal wind and rain that pelted Gillette Stadium  on Friday. The other storyline is who will play and who won’t on Sunday. Shalise Manza Young reported Friday  that a league source indicated that Rob Gronkowski  will miss his fifth straight game as he heals his left forearm, broken in a Nov. 18 win over the Colts. Gronkowski did practice on Friday and has practiced all week but on a limited basis.
“The emphasis is to get everybody healthy as soon as possible every week,” Belichick said Friday. “I don’t know what we do differently now. Our treatment schedule is the same, guys getting rest, guys getting treatment, guys doing what they can do on a progressive basis ‘ a little bit more, a little bit more until they get all the way back up there with whatever injury they’re dealing with. Trying to stay healthy, away from the colds and the flus and those kinds of setbacks which come sometimes at this time of year too and they can run through your team. It could be a dozen guys getting that or it could be one. If it’s one, you just hope that you can keep it at one and not end up losing a third of roster to a bug or something like that.
“All those things are important. We try to stay on top of them in terms of disinfecting everything and just constantly staying on top of it. I know players now really think about getting more rest and sometimes our schedule shortens a little bit in order to try to lengthen the rest time. All those things are part of it, but I wouldn’t say that, it’s not like we sit there in October and don’t care about [it]. We try to get them back then too but I think as the season goes on, there is a little bit of a different dynamic that comes into play, if you will, just because of the length of the season. I think the urgency to get people healthy, get them back and play is there like it is all year long.”
Tapering is something nearly every sport practices, the art of lessening the load during practice and saving it for competition.
“That’s part of it,” Belichick said of the similar practice used by the Patriots. “Of course, the rules with the number of padded practices you can have, those have been trimmed back in the last six weeks. They probably would be trimmed back anyway because we’ve had so many practices, 88 practices. We haven’t had 88 practices for Jacksonville but we’ve been on the field 88 times. Do you need to do everything as much now as we did in practices six, seven and eight? Probably not. But I think you still need to stay sharp on it. I think there are still things that you want to stay on but the intensity of training camp or those type of practices, no I don’t think, it’s just not that level. That level is on Sunday and above, but it’s a little less than that during the week, sure.”
If the Patriots are up by a decent amount against Jacksonville or Miami, would he selectively start resting some of your starters?
“I would do the same thing that I always do in every game and that’s to try to do what’s best for the football team,” Belichick said, reverting more to form. “There are a lot of things that go into that. Whatever I feel like is best for the football team, that’s what I’m going to try to do. Every game, every week, every situation I’m going to try to do what I think is best for the team. There are a lot of things to take into consideration on that. Whatever it is, I’m not saying it’s all right, I’ve probably made more mistakes than anybody around here, but the intent is to do what’s best for the team.”
Belichick and the Patriots do not have to worry about Maurice Jones-Drew , the three-time Pro Bowl  running back who will miss his ninth straight game with a foot injury. He was ruled out on Friday by the Jaguars.
“This is a team that’s different from the last time we saw them,” Belichick said, referring to the 2011 preseason opener, won by New England 47-12. “We saw them in the preseason a year ago. But there’s some different guys and certainly a lot different context than we saw them in that game.
“Our effort level in the classroom and on the field has been good the last couple of days but we’ll see how all that [works]. Still a lot of work to do. I don’t think we’re there by any stretch but we’re gaining on it.”