The NFL’s 2020 offseason is not your typical time away from pro football. In March, the Coronavirus pandemic forced the entire league to adjust and move not just offseason workouts but the draft as well to a virtual setting while canceling all on-field practices until at least late-July’s training camp. Last month, meanwhile, protests against racism and social injustice erupted all over the United States in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.
The outside distractions have been plenty since the beginning of the new league year three months ago, but New England Patriots running back James White still sees a team that is focused on the task at hand. Despite the Patriots’ offseason preparation having taken place in a different forum and under the light of an ongoing health crisis and social unrest, White said that the team would be locked in and trying to capitalize on its opportunities.
“It’s been a little different, with everything being virtual and not being at OTAs, minicamp and things of that nature,” he said during a recent conference call. “But, the meetings were effective. Guys learn. Coaches are challenging us the best that they could to tap in and learn new information. I think everybody made the most of the situation that was put in front of us. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world, but during that time with football, everybody was locked in and we spoke on situations that are going on in the world as a team.
“We usually have two-and-a-half months of working together and forming that camaraderie, forming those relationships,” the 28-year-old added. “We’re just kind of going to get thrown in the fire a little bit. So you have to come in, study your plays, be in condition so we can limit the amount of mistakes. At the snap of a finger you’ll be playing a game, so it will be challenging for everybody across the league and we’ll see who can face that adversity. We just have to make the most out of it.”
New England’s veteran players already ended their virtual offseason two weeks ago, with the team not expected to return to the Gillette Stadium facilities in full until reporting for training camp on July 28. Until that point, White and company will have to continue working out on their own — whether it is individually with the virtual support of the team’s training staff, or as part of player-organized sessions such as the one initiated by quarterbacks Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer.
“Everybody’s just trying to find ways to stay in shape,” White said about the offseason procedures. “Everybody’s going to be different things and have different access to different facilities in different states. Some stuff is closed; some stuff is open. You just have to find ways to lift weights, run, catch the football. Go over your football plays, go over your notes and stay on top of things. We don’t know when we’re going to start, whether it’s going to be earlier or later, so you just have to stay on top of it.
“It’s going to be tough those first few days in camp or whenever we start no matter how much you’re doing because it’s going to be a little bit different once everything’s kind of flying around and your coaches are yelling and screaming and all things of that nature,” added the team captain. “It will be an adjustment. You just have to be in the best shape possible so whenever we get back out there you’re ready to go.”