The New England Patriots’ offseason workout program began on April 19, and came to its official end earlier this week. The three-day mandatory minicamp that took place between Monday and Wednesday and saw all but five players on the roster participate, was the final and most prominent event of spring practices.
With minicamp in the books, however, the question is: What comes next? While the first impulse may be to scream “Vacation!” not all of the Patriots’ players are indeed headed into their summer break yet. With that said, let’s lay out the schedule for the coming weeks.
Rookie developmental program (May 17-July 2): As head coach Bill Belichick pointed out during his final spring press conference on Wednesday, the team’s rookie class “will be here a little bit longer in June.” In fact, they will still participate in the so-called rookie developmental program for the next two weeks. The program itself is meant to give first-year players a better start into their pro football lives.
It is governed by the NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, with timing restraints in place not to overwork the youngsters:
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 have nine players participating in the rookie developmental program: QB Mac Jones, DT Christian Barmore, DE Ronnie Perkins, RB Rhamondre Stevenson, LB Cameron McGrone, S Joshuah Bledsoe, OT William Sherman, WR Tre Nixon, K Quinn Nordin.
Summer break (June 17/July 2-July 24): While New England’s rookie class will not yet start its summer vacation, the veteran players on the roster — i.e. 80 of 89 currently under contract — are already enjoying their time off. Obviously, though, time off is relative in the NFL. While there is no practice schedule, players will continue to work out on their own or under team supervision to get in shape for the rigors of training camp and preseason football.
Still, the summer break gives players and coaches alike an opportunity to spend time with their families and to take care of personal matters as Belichick pointed out earlier this week.
“I think this is the opportunity for everyone individually to handle the things that they need to handle on their personal lives and preparations to the season to make sure that when they come to training camp and they start the season, that they’re ready to go,” he said. “Some things will be difficult to do because of our time commitments during the season, that maybe some of those can be done between now and the start of training camp.”
Training camp (starting July 25): While the Patriots have announced that their first training camp practice will take place on Thursday, July 29, players will have to arrive earlier than that. Based on past schedules, we can project that rookies and previously injured/rehabbing veterans will have to report for medical checkups as early as July 25. Healthy veterans, meanwhile, will report back to Gillette Stadium on July 28.
That practice one day later might also be the first time in 572 days that fans get to see the squad. After the Coronavirus pandemic forced teams to hold training camp behind closed doors last summer and later play regular season football without anybody in attendance, the expectation is that spectators will be allowed in again this year.
New England is also expected to hold joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants, even though no official announcement has been made just yet.
Preseason (starting August 12): The NFL canceled preseason last year due to Covid-19, but no such thing is expected to happen in 2021. As a result, the Patriots will play their first preseason game of the summer on August 12 against the Washington Football Team. The team of head coach Ron Rivera will visit Gillette Stadium to kick off both clubs’ exhibition schedule.
New England will follow this contest with road games against the Eagles (August) and Giants (August 29).