FOXBORO, Mass. -- The question brought a smile to the coach's face.
How different, Bill Belichick was asked, is training camp now from when you started coaching in this league?
"Compared to when I came into the league," he said, "there is no training camp. It's very short."
But Belichick's memory is long. He remembers vividly when he went to his first NFL training camp with the Baltimore Colts as a "special assistant," just a few months after graduating from Wesleyan.
"When I came into the league in 1975," he recalled, "we started camp July 5 and our first regular-season game was September 21, so it was two-and-a-half months of training camp. We had three scrimmages against the Redskins, and I don't know how many two-a-days. It had to be 30. It was forever.
"It was all of July, all of August, and half of September. We played six preseason games. It was like a full season, and then a regular season.
"So, has training camp changed? They (the players) have no idea."
Training camp always seems interminably long to players who have to grind through two-a-days - even if there are a lot fewer of those grueling sessions than there used to be - in the heat and humidity of midsummer, under the sweat-inducing gaze of Belichick and his staff.
But, at least after the first sessions this week at Gillette Stadium, the New England Patriots seemed eager to get started.
"We're excited to get out here and play some football," said Julian Edelman, who, as a rookie last summer, was trying to make the difficult conversion from being a running quarterback at Kent State to a wide receiver for the Patriots.
"I've got some knowledge of the offense now," he said, "so I can focus on becoming a better receiver. It was a lot different last year, when I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off."
Back when Belichick started his coaching career, there was much more time to work with young players.
"You need time to get a football team, a football player, ready," he said. "It's hard to just walk out there and start playing at a high, competitive level in our sport without putting players at risk."