Even though a sizable portion of players has declared its intention to stay away from voluntary offseason workouts this year in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, the first phase of preparatory work was kicked off all over the NFL on Monday. The New England Patriots were among the teams to begin their offseason program, with players reporting and strength and conditioning work on the schedule.
The process is getting started just five days after New England’s players joined those exercising their negotiated right to stay away from voluntary work this spring, thus following a recommendation by the NFLPA. A statement released on behalf of those players last week mentioned that “many” Patriots would skip those sessions.
How many players will ultimately show up to the usually well-attended workouts is not known at the time, but it seems that quite a few will actually do just that — including, among others, Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham (as first reported by ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss).
The two are not just expected to compete for the starting quarterback position this year, Newton also has financial incentive to participate in as many voluntary workouts as possible. The incumbent starter has a workout bonus of $100,000 in his one-year contract, most on the team alongside special teamer Brandon King.
King, meanwhile, is another veteran who is expected to show up for the voluntary sessions this spring.
“If Bill [Belichick] tells me to report, I’m reporting,” he said last week.
In total, eight players have workout bonuses in their respective deals. Regularly attending voluntary sessions like the ones beginning today is a requirement to earn those bonuses.
So, what will happen during those workouts? It is split in three phases, with the first being held mostly in a virtual setting and focusing entirely on strength and conditioning work. No in-person meetings or on-field activity is allowed while only a limited number of people is permitted in the facility at the same time: only up to 10 players can work out in the weight room at once, with no more than 20 players in total present.
Phase 1 will run through through May 14, with the offseason workout program in general ending on June 18. Under the NFL’s revised plan announced last week the lone mandatory portion of it, the aptly named mandatory minicamp, will take place either in late May or early June. Until then, all workouts are strictly voluntary.
Nonetheless, and despite the previous announcement, it seems like the Patriots will have solid attendance.