Familiarity doesn't slow competitive spirit as Raiders and Patriots wrap joint practice

Football is a brotherhood, so it may have felt like a family reunion of sorts for many Raiders coaches and players this week as they saw some familiar faces around their facility while welcoming the New England Patriots for two joint practices.

As it stands, nine current Raiders have ties back to New England, not to mention the numerous members of the coaching staff Head Coach Josh McDaniels brought along with him.

"It was great seeing those guys," Brandon Bolden, who spent eight seasons in New England, said after Tuesday's practice.

"I stayed in touch with a lot of them anyway, but it was great to see them in person. I was just telling the younger guys, a lot of those guys I saw come into the league, and that was years ago. We practically grew up together. So, for a lot of those guys, it was not only just former teammates, it's like family to me."

But after the smiles, handshakes and hugs, the teams got right to work. For the Raiders, the practices were focused on buckling down, taking chances against a different scheme and building upon what has implemented over Training Camp – a plan Head Coach Josh McDaniels felt was executed well.

"I thought it was two teams that had the right idea about how to go about this and really get the most out of it," he said Wednesday morning. "I know they came in here with the right mindset of trying to improve as a football team, work on things that they want to work on and compete against somebody different, which is exactly what we tried to do all day yesterday. I think it showed.

"We had a lot of film yesterday to go through. We spent three hours talking about what we learned, and that's really the benefit of these things."

It wasn't just film that was beneficial, observed Chandler Jones, but the mental reps against a different squad as they continue the grind in Vegas' dry August weather.

"I feel like we got to test our mental toughness. I'll speak for myself personally; it was hot out there. It was very hot," Jones said. "For us to keep going and keep hydrating and trying to complete the task at hand, for me it was definitely a mentally tough day. … It's not about just surviving and just doing it, but it's also about competing when you're going through that. I think that's what makes me a better player, it makes our team a better team if everyone's going through that."

Even with the two coaching staff's familiarity with each other, it wasn't a walk in the park – as the Patriots' former offensive coordinator at the helm of the Silver and Black has shaken up some of his scheme just as his counterpart Bill Belichick has.

"Each year is an evolution. I've never wanted to stay the same from one year to the next because I've always been fearful of what that result would produce," he said. "You stay the same in this league and there's great coaches and players on the other side and they just run you down. You're trying to run the same things you ran last year and you wonder why they're not working as well.

"I've had a lot of conversations with a lot of coaches over the years and that's really the same comment we all make – what worked one year, everyone studies and then it doesn't work the next year. I'm sure they're evolving, we're evolving here."

McDaniels' penchant for growth in his schemes is something Belichick took notice of during the 18 years they coached together, and it's something he expects to see continue as McDaniels forges his identity as a head coach.

"Josh is the type of person that grows every year," Belichick said. "I like to think we all do. We all learn things every year. ... He's a really smart guy, works hard, good football guy. A solid person. I'm sure he'll do well."

Although there has been some change, there's some things that will just stay the same – including some of McDaniels' calls, which produced a few laughs from both sidelines during practice.

"We didn't have noise yesterday, so we're calling out some things in the two-minute offense, and their whole sideline's yelling what it is. Thought that was funny. We didn't have much success with it," McDaniels said with a laugh.

The preseason finale won't be a goodbye to the Patriots just yet. The Silver and Black face them in Allegiant Stadium again in the regular season during Week 15 – a matchup that'll see McDaniels take on his former boss on the national stage in primetime action.

"How I've learned, what I've been taught over 22 years about how to try to go about winning in this league is really all from him," McDaniels said of Belichick. "I was 23, 24 years old and he started to teach me then how to work. How to be a professional. How to try to do my job the best way I could each day. How to listen and get better. All the philosophies about trying to win the game, I've learned more from him than I have from anybody else."

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