The New England Patriots players made a significant announcement on Wednesday, April 14, via a statement from the NFL Players Association regarding voluntary workouts.
They will not be attending voluntary workouts this offseason in observance of an advisory from the NFLPA to recognize the dangers of the COVID-19 virus.
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The official statement, which NFL insider Dov Kleinman posted, says in part, “in solidarity with other players across the NFL and in the interest of our health and safety, many of us at the New England Patriots will be exercising our right to not attend voluntary workouts this offseason. The NFL has yet to agree to the full details of a plan for players despite the fact we are a few short days away from the start of voluntary workouts. The threat of COVID-19 is still serious in our community and across the country, and we think it is safer for everyone if we choose to workout on our own.”
You can read the entire statement from the Detroit Lions and Patriots players below.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) April 14, 2021
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The keyword in the statement is “many,” which means some players may show up for the workouts, creating another dynamic, especially in the locker room.
What About the Players Who Choose to Attend Voluntary Workouts?
Because not attending the voluntary workouts is a part of an NFLPA initiative, going to the sessions could be frowned upon by those who chose to move in solidarity with the union. In all walks of business, this sort of division can create problems amongst the group.
Patriots special-teamer and Bill Belichick’s barber, Brandon King, said he would follow his head coach’s orders to report. King told Ben Volin of the Boston Herald, “if Bill tells me to report, I’m reporting.”
Patriots players and many around the league have a tough choice. NFLPA tells them today not to attend voluntary OTAs. Belichick told them last week to report to Foxborough on April 19.
Special teamer Brandon King said yesterday: “If Bill tells me to report, I’m reporting.”
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) April 13, 2021
According to Volin, the Patriots have had 14 players at Gillette Stadium, working out or rehabbing injuries during the offseason. Other teams have had even more. Perhaps now, at least some of them will withdraw from these practices.
The second part of Volin’s tweet is below.
As an aside, a source said the Patriots have had 14 players working out or rehabbing at Gillette Stadium throughout the offseason. The Broncos, who announced today they won’t participate in OTAs, have had over 20. About a dozen teams have had 15 or more players
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) April 13, 2021
This dynamic could be an interesting angle to follow for the rest of the month and into the preseason. If players feel guys who reported for voluntary workouts get preferential treatment, or a leg up, that could create a problem. That’s especially the case at positions where they may be a close battle for playing time.
Cam Newton vs. Jarrett Stidham
This next concept is entirely hypothetical, but imagine Jarrett Stidham reports for voluntary workouts, and Cam Newton doesn’t. Most suspect Newton to be the starter this year, but it isn’t an open-and-shut case. There’s a chance there could be a competition for the spot during the preseason.
Would Stidham’s attendance for voluntary workouts give him an advantage? Newton struggled battling COVID-19 in 2020, and that stagnated his development in the Patriots system. Stidham already has an extra year with the organization, and it could be viewed as a significant advantage for him to attend voluntary workouts without Newton.
The QB position is easily the most intriguing in this situation.