The New England Patriots held their rookie minicamp over the weekend, and will now continue on their journey through the offseason: on Monday, the team will kick off Phase 2 of its voluntary workout program and also open its rookie developmental program.
That second phase of voluntary workouts will look different than in years past. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic still impacting life all over the league, the NFL decided to shorten it from three weeks to one.
So, what will happen during this five-day span between today and Friday?
While Phase 1 was focused on strength and conditioning work, Phase 2 will allow on-field drills without restriction as agreed upon in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (e.g. no contact or live tackling). With all coaches permitted to be on the field as well, it will look much more like normal practice than previous workouts this offseason.
A league memo sent to the clubs specified what is or is not allowed in Phase 2:
Please note that this will be the first offseason program during which drills and plays may be conducted with offensive players lining up across from offensive players and defensive players lining up across from defensive players, with each group permitted to align eleven or fewer players across from eleven or fewer players. Players on one side of the ball may execute a play, but players on the opposite side of the ball may not initiate contact with, or attempt to impede the process of, players who are running the play. All such drills must be conducted at an acceptable walkthrough pace.
While such on-field workouts are allowed, meetings and classroom instruction will continue to take place in a virtual setting per the NFL’s Covid-19 guidelines.
Furthermore, there is a time limit on how much work players can do each day. Only 120 minutes of team-led activities are permitted per day, with players allowed on the field for just 90 minutes. On top of those two hours of team-directed activity, players can also spend two additional hours at the facility working out under their own directive.
The rookie developmental program, meanwhile, it will take place over the next seven weeks as defined by the CBA and confirmed through a league memo in mid-April.
Each Club may hold a Rookie Football Development Program five days per week for a period of seven weeks ... During a Club’s Rookie Football Development Program, players may only participate in Club activities for a maximum of eight hours per day. Players may participate in on-field activities for no more than three and one-half hours per day. The on-field time limits described above shall begin as soon as position coaches begin to coach a player or players on the field.
The Patriots’ rookie class — led by first-round quarterback Mac Jones — already got its first taste of NFL life over the weekend in what was a comparatively intimate setting. Now, it will continue its preparation for the challenges that lie ahead.
As Phase 2 of voluntary workouts and the rookie developmental program get kicked off, players and coaches alike will also be subject to the league’s modified Covid-19 rules. As was announced last week fully vaccinated individuals “will not be required to wear masks anywhere in the club facility, either indoors or outdoors.”