Multiple Patriots players reported to Gillette Stadium on Monday, the first day of the team’s voluntary offseason program.
Among those in town were quarterbacks Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham, along with wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and cornerback Jalen Mills. The participating players’ arrival times were staggered throughout the day as a result of the capacity limits at the facility.
Their attendance comes days after Patriots players released a statement, via the NFL Players Association, that said many would be skipping the voluntary offseason workouts because of health and safety concerns amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Such statements have been issued on behalf of players on 20 teams.
“The threat of COVID-19 is still serious in our community and across the country,” read the statement from New England’s players. “We think it is safer for everyone if we choose to work out 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.”
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and president JC Tretter, who plays center for the Cleveland Browns, reiterated in a conference call Monday afternoon that players are safer by exercising their right not to attend these workouts.
Smith and Tretter stressed that the decision to attend is ultimately up to each individual player and that teams cannot coerce players into doing so.
“Players have the absolute voluntary choice not to go,” Smith said.
According to Article 21-5(a) of the collective bargaining agreement: “No club official may indicate to a player that the club’s offseason workout program or classroom instruction is not voluntary (or that a player’s failure to participate in a workout program or classroom instruction will result in the player’s failure to make the club or result in any other adverse consequences affecting his working conditions).”
For each session they attend, players receive $275.
Eight Patriots — Newton ($100,000), defensive tackle Montravius Adams ($25,000), linebacker Tashawn Bower ($50,000), offensive tackle Trent Brown ($500,000), linebacker Brandon King ($100,000), guard Marcus Martin ($25,000), linebacker LaRay Reynolds ($25,000), and cornerback Dee Virgin ($25,000) — also have workout bonuses.
“We are never going to stand in the way of a player making a financial decision,” Smith said. “Players are going to decide, as they should, what they should do with respect to their own situation.”
Monday marked the beginning of the first phase of a nine-week offseason program, the majority of which is voluntary. The only mandatory portion, a three-day minicamp, has yet to be finalized, but is expected to take place between May 24 and June 18.
In this current phase, which runs through May 14, players are not engaging in on-field drills or work with coaches. They are utilizing the weight room and other amenities at Gillette Stadium in addition to taking part in virtual meetings.
On-field, no-contact drills are slated to begin May 17.
“We’re not pushing guys to do a certain thing,” said Tretter. “All we’re doing is informing guys what the data says, what the COVID stats are, what the logistics will look like if you want to go into one of the buildings, and then guys will make their own decisions.”