A large contingent of Patriots are wasting no time in trying to prepare for the upcoming 2021 regular season. According to Mike Reiss of ESPN, quarterback Cam Newton and tight end Jonnu Smith are among the "significant group" of players who attended last week's start of the club's voluntary organized team activities. Offensive lineman Trent Brown, safety Jalen Mills along with receivers Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne were among those who were also in attendance.
On its face, players taking part in offseason workouts isn't exactly going to make headline news. That said, this large group taking part in those team activities does come off the heels of a recent statement made by Patriots players (via the NFLPA) saying that "many of us at the New England Patriots will be exercising our right to not attend voluntary workouts this offseason," citing, in part, concerns surrounding COVID-19.
Of course, that does sound a bit contradictory when you put both developments beside one another, but we may be able to decipher a reason to why a strong amount of Patriots did show up for the workouts. The commonality between a chunk of those players listed by Reiss includes players who just arrived in Foxborough. Brown (second stint), Mills, Bourne, and Smith were all acquired by the team this offseason and they could simply be looking to get ahead of the curve so they can hit the ground running in time for minicamp.
As for Newton, he signed with New England extremely late in the offseason, giving him little time to immerse himself in the playbook before he was thrust into live-action. With a full offseason in front of him this year, it's no surprise to see him taking advantage of it. Meyers may be the lone outlier as he's entering his third season with the club, but the young receiver could also be looking to get a head start to minicamp to keep the positive momentum rolling following a breakout sophomore campaign.
With the Patriots having a number of first-year players along with some entering pivotal 2021 seasons (contract year, playing for a starting job, etc.), it shouldn't be too surprising to see them getting in some extra work while they can.
New England was just one of many teams around the NFL who had players note that they were not going to participate in voluntary offseason workouts. Others included the Steelers, Dolphins, 49ers, Rams, and even the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. All of those statements revealing their intention came as NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and president JC Tretter encouraged players to not attend the workouts due to the pandemic.