The New England Patriots are officially “on to 2021.” Not only are free agency and the draft already in the rear-view mirror, the team’s players have also already started to prepare for the upcoming season last month: New England opened its voluntary offseason workout program on April 19 and despite some speculation had good attendance numbers.
That first phase of workouts was extended from two to four weeks this offseason and will run through May 14 while focusing exclusively on strength and conditioning work, virtual meetings, and physical rehabilitation — all within the confines of the NFL’s Coronavirus protocols. There is little time to rest after the end of Phase 1, however, as the team’s recently released workout schedule shows.
New England will open its rookie minicamp on May 14, and enter Phases 2 and 3 shortly thereafter.
Rookie Minicamp (May 14-May 16): New England’s eight draft selections and any additional rookie free agent signings will get their first taste of NFL workout life next weekend. Mac Jones and company will participate in a traditional three-day rookie minicamp — an event that had to be canceled last year due to Covid-19. This camp will be followed by a rookie developmental program starting with Phase 2 of voluntary work on May 17 that is allowed to run until July 2.
Voluntary Workouts Phase 2 (May 17-May 21): Normally Phase 2 would run for three weeks, but the league shortened it to just one under its Coronavirus plan. On-field workouts without restriction as agreed upon in the CBA (e.g. no contact or live tackling) are allowed at a walkthrough pace, while all coaches are permitted on the field. Meetings and classroom instruction will still continue to take place on a virtual basis, though.
Voluntary Workouts Phase 3/Organized Team Activities (May 24-May 25, May 27, June 1, June 3-June 4, June 7-June 8, June 10-June 11): New England has scheduled six separate OTA blocks this offseason. The team will be allowed to work six hours per day including a maximum of two hours on the field. All coaches will again be allowed on the field, while the team can run 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills without live contact.
Mandatory Minicamp (June 15-June 17): As the name says, mandatory minicamp is mandatory: all players under contract will have to report or else they are subject to fines by the club. Structurally, minicamp will be looking a lot like OTA practices meaning that no live tackling will be allowed.
As can be seen, the vast majority of workouts is still voluntary. But while the NFLPA recommended players stay away from non-mandatory work this year in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Patriots’ attendance numbers so far suggest that most if not all players on the roster will participate at least in some form.
Quarterbacks Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham led the charge as Phase 1 opened, they are again expected to participate alongside most of their teammates as workouts enter the second and third phases and eventually minicamp in mid-June.