The New England Patriots’ training camp will have a new feel for starting center David Andrews. For the first time since he entered the league in 2015, after all, he will not have guard Shaq Mason line up next to him.
The two blockers entered the NFL alongside one another seven years ago; Mason was selected by the Patriots in the fourth round of the draft, with Andrews later joining him on the team through rookie free agency. Both made the 53-man roster out of camp and ended up seeing comparatively prominent action as rookies. By their sophomore campaigns they had carved out starting roles along the New England O-line.
Andrews and Mason never looked back, starting 86 regular season and playoff games next to each other and helping the Patriots win a pair of Super Bowls. However, the organization split the duo up earlier this offseason when it traded Mason to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a future fifth-round draft choice.
When asked about losing his long-time teammate during a media conference call on the eve of this year’s camp, Andrews went the old “it is what it is” route.
“I mean, it’s part of it,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “Shaq will always be a great friend of mine and a great teammate. Had the pleasure to train with Shaq before we even were drafted — or he was drafted and, obviously, I was undrafted. So, we’ve always been super close and played a lot of football together.”
Based on the offseason, it seems likely that Mason’s former role will go to Michael Onwenu. The third-year man out of Michigan will naturally have some big shoes to fill in lieu of the Mason trade, but he already has some experience playing next to David Andrews: over the past two seasons, Onwenu started seven games at either left or right guard alongside the team captain.
Some familiarity already exists between the two, even though it is not on an Andrews-Mason level yet. Nonetheless, it is farther along than the guard-center combo on the other side of the line; the left guard role previously held by Joe Thuney (2016-20) and Ted Karras (2021) will be manned by a rookie — first-rounder Cole Strange — this year.
Needless to say that Andrews, who currently remains on the physically unable to perform list, has some getting-used-to to do.
“That’s just part of this business,” he said. “It happened with Joe Thuney, Ted Karras. It’s just how it goes, man. It’s the NFL. It’s part of it and it’s just the business.”