FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The greatest challenge for the New England Patriots this season won’t hit them for quite some time, and it may actually blindside the locker room.

Bill Belichick is well equipped to handle that adversity as a head coach out to defend his fifth Super Bowl championship. And Tom Brady will be right there alongside him.

What many players don’t recognize is complacency, or at least some general mental exhaustion, will be a factor, as it was for the 2004 Patriots who conquered those demons to win their third Super Bowl in four years.

It’s tough to reach Belichick’s high standards on a daily basis, especially when so many players already have won a pair of Super Bowls. So what’s one more, they’ll ask when they wake up sore some November morning?

Well, that’s where Belichick’s motivational prowess comes into play. He’s already working his room. How?

“Have you met our coach?” wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell said.

The secrets are remaining in-house for the time being.

Look at the 2004 team. They loved the historical implications of their journey, which started with their record 21-game winning streak. But seven weeks after that ended, they shockingly lost to the hapless Dolphins, falling victim to a mental lapse.

Those Patriots had all the motivation they needed to dispatch the Colts and Steelers in the first two playoff games, but Belichick played a couple of trump cards the night before their meeting with the Eagles in the Super Bowl. For the players who so desperately loved being disrespected, Belichick found a copy of the Eagles’ victory parade plans. For the rest of the veterans, Belichick halted his Saturday night film session, turned on the lights and pulled out two Lombardi trophies from underneath a table to captivate his audience.

The acts may sound simple now but the players were mesmerized. Belichick knew his audience.

The current Patriots can draw upon their experience from 2015, but only to an extent. They got off to a 10-0 start and were hit with weekly questions about going 19-0. After their first loss to the Broncos, the Pats flatlined against a woeful Eagles team at home. Those lapses are real even for the most headstrong teams.

But by the time the playoffs rolled around, the 2015 Patriots were so decimated by injuries that life lessons and motivational tactics could only go so far.

And the notion was strongly reinforced that nothing is promised to anyone, not from season to season or even week to week.

“No one does it better than they’ve done it here of coming off a big season and then moving right into the next one,” left tackle Nate Solder said. “It’s definitely a balance. I don’t think, unless you’ve been in that situation, that you’d know how to balance it. But they do it here.”

Belichick squashed far greater distractions than this enviable problem of trying to win a third Super Bowl in four seasons again.

They spoke in 2013 as though Aaron Hernandez didn’t exist.

And while a few acknowledged Deflategate during that two-year battle, the Pats ultimately became two-time champs during that span, so they obviously handled it appropriately.

Even in their last outing, the Patriots erased the biggest deficit in Super Bowl history, which they surely hadn’t planned to do before the 34-28 victory over Atlanta started.

The Pats can be sure of one thing: They’ll get every team’s best shot, which they’re used to regardless of their status as reigning champs. It’s been the case for almost two decades.

“There’s no question, playing here, whether you’ve won the Super Bowl or not, teams are going to come in and give you their best shot,” wide receiver Danny Amendola said. “We’re fully aware of that. It raises our level of play each week. It raises our level of preparation each week. That’s why we all love to be here.”

That type of challenge is tangible and conquerable. From there the Patriots know their season almost certainly will be defined by their character in the face of uncertain adversity.

They can’t plan for that but Belichick will fight to get out in front of it every step of the way.

“It doesn’t matter what happened the previous season. You’ve got to start from scratch, start from the ground up,” Solder said. “We’re accustomed to getting people’s best efforts, but we want to bring our best effort, too.

“It’s good coaching, good players, working well together. I think that equips us the most, more than anything.”