With the NFL scheduled to kick off the first phase of offseason workouts next Monday, the New England Patriots are expecting their players to report to the team by April 19. The workouts, which are focusing on strength and conditioning, are voluntary in nature but still traditionally have strong attendance.
For some players, this is about working out in a setting provided by New England’s staff. For some, it also is about positioning themselves to earn workout bonuses in their contracts. One player who falls into the second category is veteran special teamer Brandon King, who could earn up to $100,000 extra this offseason if partaking in team-organized activities.
The financial perspective is obviously only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to players reporting his year. After all, the NFL Players Association advised against participating in voluntary workouts this year due to Coronavirus concerns. The NFLPA wants all pre-training camp workouts moved to a virtual setting, with the league itself pushing for on-field practices before late July.
As a result, three teams’ players have already announced that they would skip voluntary work: the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will not participate as was announced on Tuesday.
The Patriots’ players have not made a similar decision yet, but the case remains a clear one for King if presented with a choice whether or not to report next week.
“If Bill [Belichick] tells me to report, I’m reporting,” he told the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin.
One of the Patriots’ team leaders, King has been with the Patriots since joining them as a rookie free agent in 2015. Since then, he has developed into a cornerstone special teamer that appeared in a combined 68 regular season and playoff games and helped bring two Super Bowls to New England.
While he missed the last two seasons due to injury and was not voted a captain in any of his six years with the club, he is a well-respected voice in the locker room and was actively involved in the Patriots’ social justice discussions during the 2020 season. His word carries weight within the locker room, which creates an interesting dynamic now given the NFLPA’s recommendation to sit out voluntary workouts due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Whether or not New England will join other clubs in boycotting those sessions remains to be seen, but they already had a number of players visit the facility on a semi-frequent basis. Aa total of 14 players were either working out or rehabbing at Gillette Stadium throughout the offseason, with cornerback Stephon Gilmore and linebacker Josh Uche among them.
Others, such as quarterbacks Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham, have conducted player-led workouts away from the Patriots’ facilities since the end of the season in early January — most prominently the so-called “Pats West” sessions organized by Stidham in mid-March.
Under normal circumstances all of the players would join forces next week. However, there is no guarantee they will follow Brandon King’s example.