Cam Newton reportedly was back at Gillette Stadium on Monday as the New England Patriots officially kicked off their offseason program.
The 31-year-old quarterback was “among those leading the charge in attendance” on Day 1 of offseason workouts, according to a report from ESPN’s Mike Reiss.
Phase 1 of the offseason program consists of up to two hours per day of virtual meetings, plus strength and conditioning work, with weight room capacity limits enforced due to COVID-19 protocols. On-field drills cannot begin until May 17, with full-speed organized team activities (OTAs) starting May 24.
All of these sessions — save for a three-day mandatory minicamp in early June — are voluntary, and Patriots players announced through the NFLPA last week that “many” of them would not take part. Players from more than half of the league’s 32 teams have opted out of voluntary workouts, citing coronavirus concerns.
“In solidarity with other players across the NFL and in the interest of our health and safety, many of us will be exercising or right to not attend voluntary workouts this offseason,” Patriots players said in a statement. “… 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.
“While we understand that some players will need to go for various reasons and some safety measures have been put in place, we also know that NFL players have a choice, which our union bargained for. We saw the health and safety benefits that a fully virtual offseason had on our fellow players last year.”
It’s unclear which other Patriots players are planning to attend the team’s voluntary workouts/practices, but Newton’s presence is notable. He’s currently projected as New England’s starting QB for 2021 and spoke openly about how his delayed signing last offseason and subsequent COVID-related layoff hindered his ability to master the Patriots’ notoriously complex offense.
Newton rushed for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first season with New England but struggled as a passer, throwing more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (eight). He was benched in three of his 15 starts, and the Patriots finished 7-9, their worst record since 2000.