Why don’t Patriots have a ‘strong’ attendance at OTAs?

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 27: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 27: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

We don’t know every single name, but a number of New England Patriots players are absent from voluntary OTAs. It’s not surprising … but one aspect of it is.

It’s troubling enough that nobody really knows what’s going on with linebacker Dont’a Hightower, but fans learned on Thursday, via head coach Bill Belichick, of the attendance at OTAs, which led Ben Volin of the Boston Globe to suspect perhaps the Patriots are dealing with a thinner crew than the rest of the NFL.

And he’s not exactly wrong. Though we don’t have the average attendance for OTAs across the league, fellow Patriots insider Mike Reiss gave us a look at what’s going on with the Pats.

So, you could say “around 60” out of a 90-man roster (67%) isn’t as prolific as Belichick might want it to be. Even more “concerning”? The guys who Reiss did not see are … pretty important.

Should fans be concerned about the Patriots’ OTAs attendance?

That’s a significant amount of starters/contributors for an annual event that, while voluntary, has usually seen such important figures present in recent seasons. Some players, historically, don’t attend due to injury, contract disputes, or their preference to work out on their own, but generally, attendance isn’t usually this low.

It’s not exactly a cause for concern, but we probably know why it’s happening. Back in April, the NFLPA shared this statement from a number of Patriots players:

"“In solidarity with other players across the NFL and in the interest of our health and safety, many of us at the New England Patriots will be exercising our right to not attend voluntary workouts this offseason. The NFL has yet to agree to the full details of a plan for players despite the fact we are a few short days away from the start of voluntary workouts. 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 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.”"

It makes sense, too, because the Pats had the most COVID-19 opt-outs in the league last year and had many miss time after contracting the virus.

Additionally, a lot of these guys dealt with injuries last season. Stephon Gilmore, Damien Harris, Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown, most notably, missed a lot of time with their ailments. There’s no need for them to rush into action.

All in all, there’s nothing to be concerned about. Jalen Mills, a newcomer after joining New England this offseason, just raved about being able to play for Belichick. It’s not an organizational problem whatsoever. It’s likely just players taking their time after a trying 2020.

Make no mistake about it: the Patriots are ready to rebound in 2021 and they’ve ensured they have the right personnel to do so. Don’t let that goal be overshadowed by a weaker than average attendance at OTAs, even if the numbers do appear to be a bit alarming.