For the first time in two years, the New England Patriots are hosting players for offseason workouts again. After the Coronavirus pandemic forced the league to cancel all such sessions last spring, teams are now allowed to hold voluntary and mandatory practices.
The Patriots, as usual, have solid attendance during those workouts with roughly two thirds of players present. Among them is offensive lineman David Andrews, who recently spoke about the importance of these sessions and what they mean for the team and its players.
“First of all you can always work on your fundamentals, right? It’s not really a physical camp, obviously just in helmets. There’s certain things — we’re not really running the ball against each other, hitting each other. To me, first thing is just fundamentals,” the team captain said during a recent media conference call.
“We do a lot more fundamentals right now at this time of the year, really emphasize those. And then just sharpening our knowledge of the playbook. Learning the play, blocking your rules. There’s so many good things we can take away, getting out here and working and doing as much as we can do.”
The Patriots are currently in the middle of their voluntary Phase 3 workouts. After focusing on strength and conditioning earlier, and later bringing the whole coaching staff in as well, they are now building the foundation for the 2021 season: New England has held eight organized team activities already, and will hold two more such sessions before a three-day mandatory minicamp gets kicked off on June 14.
While those offseason workouts are a time of learning rather than straight-on competition, Andrews still sees plenty of value in participating.
“Each day is kind of something different, it kind of changes,” he said. “It really makes everyone having to block their rules, follow their assignments — everybody included. I like that part of it because it’s challenging and makes you think and go on the run.
“There’s obviously things that we can do better and things that we have solutions to, but we’re just trying to use our rules first and then maybe game-plan it, fix stuff. I think it’s a crucial part and time of the year to just try to learn the basic rules, block our rules, not really worry about the game plan or scheme as much as just the fundamentals and rules of protection or a run play or whatever it may be.”
Those sessions are also a time to get acquainted to new teammates, whether they were brought aboard through free agency, trade or the draft. One of those players is the Patriots’ presumptive quarterback of the future, first-round rookie Mac Jones.
Andrews has spent time with him and the other three QBs currently on the roster — Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer — and pointed out that building familiarity and trust are the main goals at this point in time.
“I work with all the quarterbacks. There’s just a constant rotation, we’re constantly rotating up front. There’s no ‘this guy with this guy’ or whatever,” he said. “A part of this camp is to work with everybody, build trust in your teammates, build trust in yourself, and have your teammates build trust in you. We work with everybody. They’re all great guys, they all work really hard. It’s a good room.”
Entering his seventh year with the Patriots, Andrews re-signed with the team on a four-year, $19 million contract this offseason. He therefore is a lock to make the roster again, and to resume his role as New England’s starting center. So far, the 28-year-old has 78 career starts under his belt.