While star cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s holdout was one of the biggest storylines coming out of the New England Patriots’ mandatory minicamp, his absence was not the only noteworthy one. Also not spotted during the three-day event was the team’s best pass rusher of the 2020 season, outside linebacker Chase Winovich.
Winovich was a participant during organized team activities but suspiciously absent at the start of minicamp on Monday. Together with Gilmore as well as defensive tackle Byron Cowart and fellow linebackers Terez Hall and Rashod Berry he remained out for the rest of the week.
According to a report by NESN’s Doug Kyed, however, the “cause for Winovich’s absence is nothing major” and that the plan is to have him return for training camp.
Winovich, as head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged, was preset for parts of new England’s voluntary offseason workout program.
“Chase was here for parts of it and, as always, Chase brings a high level of energy and a high work ethic, competitiveness to all the things that he does,” Belichick said. “He’s still a young player that’s developing and can continue to grow both in his understanding of our system and the techniques and some of his assignments that come with it.”
Winovich entered this spring coming off a season that had its fair share of ups but also some obvious downs. He served as the Patriots’ number two outside linebacker behind veteran John Simon, but saw some inconsistent playing time especially during the second quarter of the season. He still managed to end the year as the team’s most effective pass rusher and registered 5.5 sacks as well as 18 hits and 33 additional hurries.
Despite his absence during minicamp, the former third-round draft pick is therefore again projected to play a prominent role within a New England linebacker room that has been rebuilt this offseason. Not only did Dont’a Hightower return from his Coronavirus opt-out, the club also added Matthew Judon and Kyle Van Noy in free agency.
Add former second-round draft pick and spring practice standout Josh Uche to the equation and you get a deep group of pass rushers. Where Winovich will fit on it remains to be seen, but he himself pointed out that he has seen work at multiple positions during the first full offseason since entering the league in 2019.
“I’ve been working a variety of different positions, I’d say,” Winovich noted earlier this month. “Right now I’m just doing whatever the coaches ask me to do. All I can say is that I feel great overall — the best mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, you name it, that I’ve ever been. I’m really excited for the opportunities that present themselves this year.”
Belichick praised Winovich’s versatility during a media conference call on Tuesday.
“His versatility leads to some, let’s say probably a bigger, a little wider range of assignments than maybe some other players, including the kicking game but he does a good job of trying to manage all that and work on all the things that will help the team,” Belichick said about the 26-year-old.
“He’s team-oriented and he works hard to help the team in a lot of different ways between defense and the kicking game. The groupings that he plays on, he has a pretty fair amount of variety in his responsibility.”
Winovich himself, meanwhile, took to social media on Wednesday to share a simple message: “All these dark clouds… you gonna see me storm”