Bill Belichick and the Patriots again find themselves in a little trouble over their interpretation of NFL rules.
The Patriots were docked two of their 10 offseason practice days, and Belichick was fined $50,000, for violating NFL rules governing offseason workouts, league sources confirmed. The Patriots canceled Thursday’s practice as well as one scheduled for next Thursday.
While teams in the past have been punished for violating the rules concerning full-contact drills during “organized team activities,” the Patriots issue was with post-practice meetings and staying within time limits. Per the sources, there were multiple occasions during Phase 2 of their offseason program this month in which special teams meetings kept players in the building about 15 minutes past the allotted time.
The Patriots declined to comment on the league’s action. Belichick is scheduled to field questions from reporters at the team’s next scheduled OTA next Wednesday. The NFL also declined comment.
The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement has specific rules about what can take place during offseason workouts. During Phase 2, which is voluntary, players are not allowed to be in the facility for more than four hours per day, and club officials are not allowed to indicate to players that the workouts or meetings are mandatory.
The Patriots this week began Phase 3, which entails 10 (now eight) voluntary OTAs and three mandatory minicamp practices.
The NFL Players Association has a representative for each team who visits periodically throughout the offseason to ensure that protocols are being followed. Last year, the Bears, Cowboys, and Commanders were docked at least one OTA day for violating the rules about non-contact practices.
According to a league source, the Patriots’ infraction did not involve impermissible contact or on-field activities.
The size of Belichick’s fine suggests that the NFL and NFLPA did not view the violation as egregious. Article 21.8 of the CBA outlines a minimum fine of $100,000 for a head coach’s first violation, but allows for commissioner Roger Goodell to consult with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and levy a lesser fine if Goodell determines that “the conduct of the head coach and the Club were based upon a good faith interpretation” of the rules.
Rule 21.8 also outlines team fines, but the Patriots were not fined in this matter, according to a league source.
OTAs are used to set a foundation for training camp, allowing players — especially rookies and other newcomers — to get acclimated to a team’s structure and schedule.
The on-field periods are very similar to a regular practice, though contact is forbidden.
Firkser comes aboard
The Patriots have signed former Harvard tight end Anthony Firkser to a free agent deal, according to a league source. In 69 career games with the Titans and Falcons, the 6-foot-2-inch, 246-pound Firkser has 115 catches for 1,207 yards and 5 touchdowns. He scored a TD in Tennessee’s wild-card playoff win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in 2019. With Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki projected at the top of the depth chart at tight end, Firkser will compete with Matt Sokol, Scotty Washington, and Johnny Lumpkin for a roster spot. The Patriots made a corresponding move, placing linebacker Raekwon McMillan on inmjured reserve ... The Patriots also signed center Jake Andrews, the first of their three fourth-round picks in last month’s draft. They now have nine of their 12 picks in the fold, with just cornerback Christian Gonzalez (first round), defensive end Keion White (second), and safety/linebacker Marte Mapu (third) left unsigned.