With rookie minicamp and the first two phases of voluntary offseason work in the rear-view mirror, the New England Patriots will continue their preparation for the upcoming 2021 season starting on Monday: the team will kick off Phase 3 of its voluntary workout program.
While the first two phases of workouts did look different than in years past, Phase 3 presents a return of normalcy despite the Coronavirus still impacting life all over the league. The NFL, after all, decided to keep it at the customary length of four weeks after altering Phases 1 and 2, and has also not drastically changed the guidelines governing the workout sessions.
So, what will happen over the course of the next four weeks?
Phase 1 was focused on strength and conditioning work and Phase 2 allowed some early on-field drills; Phase 3, on the other hand, will see clubs hold organized team activities (OTAs) and a mandatory minicamp. A league memo sent to the clubs specified what will happen over the coming weeks:
During Phase Three, Clubs may conduct ten days of organized team practice activity (“OTA”). On OTA days, players may be at the Club facility no more than six hours per day, and on the field no more than two hours per day. ... All Phase Three activities will be scheduled by the Club, so long as the player’s time at the facility does not exceed six hours, and his time on the field does not exceed two hours.
Those workout schedules present a change compared to Phase 2: Only 120 minutes of team-led activities were permitted per day last week, with players allowed on the field for just 90 minutes. On top of those two hours of team-directed activity, players were also allowed spend two additional hours at the facility working out under their own directive.
Phase 3, however, will see an increase in workouts times with players spending up to six hours per day in the facility during OTA days. For the Patriots, those 10 days have been announced as follows:
- May 24-May 25
- May 27
- June 1
- June 3-June 4
- June 7-June 8
- June 10-June 11
Phase 3 activities will see an increased workload for players, including the introduction of situational drills:
During Phase Three, all coaches are allowed on the field. On-field workouts ... may include 7-on7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, provided no live contact occurs.
This will be the first offseason program during which “simulated press coverage” is permitted outside of the 10-yard line using “hand placement” (versus jamming) during 11-on-11 drills, as well as related position group one-on-one drills (e.g., “footwork and release” drills).
While the Phase 3 workouts remain voluntary with the exception of the aforementioned mandatory minicamp — the Patriots will hold theirs between June 15 and June 17 — New England is expected to again have strong attendance. No matter who ultimately will be present, they will be subject to the league’s modified Covid-19 rules: as was announced two weeks ago fully vaccinated individuals “will not be required to wear masks anywhere in the club facility, either indoors or outdoors.”