Training camp is not usually something veteran NFL players are “excited” to take part in.
This year, understandably, is a little bit different.
The Patriots practiced Wednesday for the first time since January after an offseason of virtual meetings replacing organized team activities and minicamp due to the coronavirus pandemic. Training camp usually begins in late July, but the start was delayed this summer because of COVID-19 testing and a ramp-up period that included strength and conditioning and walk-throughs.
Patriots guard Shaq Mason painted a picture of a lively environment.
“It was great,” Mason said Wednesday in a video conference call. “Naturally, nobody’s played football since we last were all together. I think more than anything, it was just great energy. Everybody’s just excited to get back out on the football field to grind. When we haven’t been able to go out there as a unit and do things as a whole, but today, it was good to get all of the guys out there. It was all smiles, high energy. We were all glad to get back.”
Patriots running back Rex Burkhead reiterated many of those same points in his own video conference call Wednesday.
“It was great,” Burkhead said. “It really was just to get out there, put the helmets on, move around at a faster tempo. We’ve just been doing walk-throughs, and in the spring, we couldn’t do anything. I think everyone’s itching to get out there at a little faster pace, and it was nice. … It’s really cool to actually see guys out on the field moving around, getting to know them more in person.”
The Patriots will hold their first padded practice Monday. We’ll see if players are still all smiles when the novelty of football practice wears back off.