One of their splash signings last offseason, Jonnu Smith had a limited impact on the New England Patriots’ offense in 2021. The high-profile tight end addition caught only 28 passes for 294 yards and a touchdown in 17 games.
Now entering his second year in the system, Smith has made some changes to his offseason routine. As opposed to last spring, he has been actively involved in the Patriots’ voluntary workouts so far in 2022.
“April 19th, I’ve been here since then,” he said following New England’s first organized team activity on Monday. “Every day. Just grinding and trying to be a part of the team-building chemistry. Just being part of that element.”
Smith, who joined the Patriots on a four-year, $50 million free agency deal last March, skipped voluntary offseason work in his first offseason with the club. He stayed away from the team’s facility following the birth of his daughter, and later was also unable to fully participate in mandatory minicamp due to injury.
Smith only started regularly practicing alongside his new teammates in training camp. One year later, he acknowledges that missing time leading up to camp was far from beneficial to his development.
“I definitely missed a lot last year,” Smith said on Monday. “Minicamp, I had a thing, so my offseason was choppy. I had some great things like my baby girl being born, and I had some unfortunate setbacks as well. I definitely missed some quality time here, and I recognize how valuable that time is. And I’m just here to take advantage of that.”
Smith has been a full participant all spring and Monday’s OTA session was no exception. With fellow tight end Hunter Henry a limited participant, Smith usually was the first player at the position group to go through drills.
While that alone is no indication of a potential second-year jump from the 26-year-old, the mere fact that he is present and full-go is a positive. That said, Smith would not criticize those skipping voluntary workouts; the Patriots had a total of 13 players absent on Monday.
“Everybody has their own routine,” he said. “Older guys have the right, as they should, to be here or not. That’s their right. But just for me, in my opinion, there’s such a great team-bonding element to it.
“Just being here, being around the guys and just building that chemistry. To me, that’s what it’s about. And I think if we can improve that, I think everything else on the field will take care of itself. I’m just a big believer, I’m seeing it. I’m seeing it coming to fruition. It’s good.”
New England will hold a total of 10 OTA practices and also conduct its mandatory minicamp on June 7-9. Based on the offseason so far, Smith should be counted on to be present for all of these practice sessions.