The New England Patriots have been docked two days of organized team activities after it was found the franchise violated offseason rules, according to ESPN. In addition to losing those OTA sessions, head coach Bill Belichick was reportedly also fined $50K.
The Patriots were scheduled to have an OTA on Thursday, but the team announced earlier on Wednesday that the session had been canceled. Instead of that merely being the call off by Belichick, it has since been reported that Thursday's OTA along with another that was scheduled for next week are the two that have been taken away by the NFL.
As for the actual violation, it appears to center around meetings instead of any on-field infractions.
ESPN reports the NFL Players Association filed a complaint against New England on May 4, alleging the team violated Article 21, Section 5(b) of the CBA. Under that, players can be at the facility for no more than four hours per day. The complaint specified that there were meetings/workshops that weren't on the official schedule of the four-hour workday that was sent to players on May 1, May 2 and May 4. The Patriots reportedly told the league the meetings/workshops were not mandatory and no attendance was taken.
Meanwhile, Pro Football Talk reports that it the violation was in regards to a 15-minute special teams meeting. The NFL Players Association believed one of the optional early offseason meetings was a violation because it was made visible on the internal schedule. By placing it on the formal schedule, that was deemed to fall under the "mandatory" category instead of it being optional in the eyes of the NFLPA.
Those two nuggets of reporting do conflict with one another just a tad as it relates to whether such meetings/workshops were on the official schedule or not, but the NFL appears to have deemed it was perceived to be mandatory when it shouldn't have been and exceeded the four hour time limit, thus the stripping of these OTAs and a fine for Belichick.
The Boston Sports Journal adds that Joe Judge, who will reportedly be working with special teams in 2023, was at the center of this violation as his meeting caused the offense and defensive players to be at the facility longer than four hours.
The team was in the midst of the third phase of the offseason program, which allows for up to 10 OTAs. Contact nor pads are allowed during this portion of the offseason program, per the CBA. That includes no blocking, tackling, etc. The latest report from Pro Football Talk noted that this violation had nothing to do with practice field activities.
The Patriots are no strangers to finding themselves in the crosshairs of the NFL under Belichick. In the past, the franchise was famously punished for more serious infractions like Deflategate and Spygate. This situation, however, doesn't rise to that level of fever and is a bit more commonplace around the league. Last offseason, the Cowboys, Bears, Commanders and Texans were all penalized for violations of offseason rules. Meanwhile, the Cowboys (again), 49ers, and Jaguars were penalized in 2021.
The Patriots are scheduled to hold its three-day mandatory minicamp beginning on June 12.