The story of the New England Patriots’ 2020 offseason is dominated by the departure of quarterback Tom Brady. Two weeks removed from his decision to leave the club with which he won six Super Bowls, however, the team’s perspective is not on what was or what could have been but rather on what lies ahead: preparing for the upcoming season, whenever it is that the current Coronavirus pandemic allows the campaign to eventually be kicked off.
Even with Brady and other foundational players such as linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins gone, the Patriots tackle this process with the same mindset as always — at least when listening to running back and team captain James White. During a recent conference call with the New England media, White reiterated that the team’s expectations have not changed despite Brady and other big-name veterans departing in free agency.
“Expectations don’t change. As soon as you step into that building, you’re expected to compete at a high level, be dependable, be a great teammate. For us, as leaders, as captains, it’s to string the new guys along, the younger guys along, make sure they’re competing, learning,” he said. White certainly is among those leaders: he was voted a captain each of the last two seasons and is among the team’s most experienced players.
The 28-year-old, who arrived in New England during the 2014 draft and was part of three of the aforementioned six championships, will have to play alongside a new starting quarterback for the first time in his career. But despite another guy lining up under center — the favorite at the time seems to be second-year man Jarrett Stidham — White does not see any pressure added to himself and the rest of the Patriots’ offensive backfield.
“There’s no added pressure,” he said. “We attack each offseason, each season the same way. We all want to be reliable options. It’s not going to be just one group or one person that makes a team win, it’s going to be everybody working together and getting things going. Whoever happens to be relied upon the most — running back group, offensive line, tight ends, receivers, quarterbacks — it’s all of us working together and trying to find ways to score points and win the game.”
For White, the mantra therefore is a familiar one entering his seventh year in the system: the players need to do their jobs, and continuously keep focusing on the task at hand. As for the 2020 season, this means that they need to start anew and build their offense and team around a new quarterback and other personnel that may have changed in all three phases of the game since the Patriots’ playoff exit in early January.
“Each year you have to kind of... you know, this is a, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ league,” he pointed out. “You have to come back in and restart over, refresh and show your teammates that you’re reliable and that you can compete for 60 minutes, on the practice field, whatever it is, so we can build those relationships and build that reliability each and every time you go out there.”