Earlier this offseason, the New England Patriots had to make a decision about Isaiah Wynn’s future with the organization. Either they would exercise the fifth-year option in his rookie deal to keep him around through 2022, or alternatively decline it and turn his 2021 campaign into a contract season.
The Patriots went the first of the two routes. While their decision was not a surprising one, it did signal the team’s confidence in the 23rd overall selection of the 2018 NFL Draft — confidence that was tested repeatedly over the last three years.
For as good as Wynn has looked whenever he was part of the lineup, staying on the field has been an issue for the 25-year-old: he appeared in only 19 of a possible 52 games since entering the league in 2018 and has spent time on injured reserve in each of his first three seasons as a pro.
Now heading into Year 4 his top priority is no secret: staying healthy.
“I’m just trying to stay healthy. That’s the biggest thing, continue to stay healthy,” he told reporters following Monday’s training camp practice.
Since arriving in New England, Wynn repeatedly displayed his impressive talents while looking like a bona fide offensive tackle. As the Patriots’ starter at the left tackle position ever since the 2019 season, he displayed all the tools necessary to become an elite player at the position capable of holding down the fort for years to come.
Unfortunately, injuries continued to set him back.
Wynn tore his Achilles tendon a few snaps into his first ever preseason game, missing his entire rookie campaign as a result. He returned the following year only to miss eight more games because of a turf toe issue. His third season with the Patriots started well, but he left a November contest in Houston because of a knee issue and did not return for the remainder of the year.
“I mean, we play football. It’s a game of adversity,” Wynn said on Monday. “You’re going to have your bumps and bruises and all that that you’re going to have to push through. But, I’m here. I ain’t tripping, I’m enjoying it.”
Having gone through three separate rehabilitation stints, Wynn knows what it takes to fight through adversity and come back. His career so far is a testament to that.
So, what has helped him return each time?
“Really, just talking to the guys,” he said. “Really, we play football. Everybody gets hurt once in a while. So, just being able to talk to other guys to see what they do to get to where they’re at right now and just staying healthy. Just talking to the rest of the team is always helpful. Everybody’s been in that similar situation. You know, we play the game of football.”
The Patriots are apparently feeling good about Wynn’s outlook after three injury-riddled seasons; otherwise, they would likely not have picked up his fifth-year option earlier this year. However, Wynn has to live up to the trust the team has expressed in him.
Its success in 2021 will also depend on it. Wynn, when healthy, is a starter-level player in the NFL. Despite being undersized by conventional tackle standards, he has shown a combination of agility and technique few players at his position possess. Really, the only thing that has held him back so far was his bad injury luck.
Heading into his fourth year as a pro, he is finally trying to put it behind him.