The discourse in New England is dominated by two stories since the last month: the free agency departure of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and the fast-spreading Coronavirus pandemic. While only one of the two has an impact on everyday life in the region, both might dictate how the 2020 season will be for its pro football franchise. For the moment, at least, the latter has forced the Patriots’ players and coaches to adjust their schedules.
After all, the NFL has drastically changed its offseason procedure in light of the Covid-19 outbreak. College player pro days all over the country have been canceled and the league recently informed its 32 teams that the draft will take place in a virtual setting this year. For those players who are already under contract with a pro football franchise, the offseason has also changed as the the first phase of workouts has been postponed indefinitely.
One of the players affected is Patriots running back James White, who shared his feelings on the matter during a recent media conference call. The 28-year-old, who is entering his seventh season in New England, opened up about his own workouts routine these days and also spoke about how the situation puts pressure on not just himself and his teammates — especially with Brady leaving town — but the entire league.
“I think it’s going to be a challenge for everybody across the league,” White said. “It’s less practicing, less time of everybody being on the same page. Whenever we can get back out there, it’s going to be going out there and making sure we can get on the same page very quickly as an offense, defense special teams, just making sure — getting the offense, getting those extra repetitions, maybe staying after practice a little bit more, doing stuff before practice, competing with each other.”
“Whatever it takes so you can go out there and have your best performances when you go out there,” he continued. “It’s not easy for everybody, not everybody has access to weights or is able to run, it’s cold in some places, things of that nature. It will be interesting to see how guys find ways to stay in shape but I hope everybody has some sort of access to do something because we’re in a business where you need to be in shape once you get back out there. I hope everybody is doing something.”
Earlier this week, the NFL sent a memo to all of its players informing them about the offseason workout procedures now that facilities have been shut down. While they are forbidden from participating in any club-supervised workouts, practices or meetings either in person or virtually, they can request workout instructions via video from each team’s strength and conditioning staff in order to voluntary keep training from home.
What will still be missing, of course, is the personal and team-building component attached to this phase of the NFL’s offseason workout program. The Patriots’ was scheduled to begin on April 20, and the club usually has strong attendance during the voluntary sessions. This year, however, will be different and the players themselves will have to find not just new ways of working out but also new means of communication with each other.
“Everybody tries to stay in contact with others on the team,” said White about the situation. “Some people talk to more guys, more than others. For me, it’s the running back group. We always talk, we have a group chat, just checking up on each other to make sure everybody is good, making sure everybody’s working out. In the coming weeks I’m sure we’ll try and find a way for everybody to communicate, be on the same page since OTAs probably won’t start when they’re supposed to start.”
“Try and get a little football talk going on so whenever things get back rolling everybody’s — it’s smooth sailing,” continued New England’s offensive team captain. “I’m sure in the coming weeks we’ll figure out ways to stay in touch with everybody once the actual period of when OTAs are supposed to start. I’m sure everybody will come together, talk with each other, find ways to communicate so that when we actually do get things going, it’s a smooth-sailing process.”
White himself noted that he would be doing a variety of drills during this time at least somewhat away from football. He pointed out that the treadmill, dumbbells, ab training, yoga and rope jumping are on his schedule as well as running. Other than that, however, his offseason consists of other new development: staying entertained with his son, Xzavier, who was born during last year’s regular season.