98.5 The Sports Hub staff report
Citing the need for players to get in football shape after an offseason of largely ‘virtual’ programs thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the National Football League has officially decided to halve the 2020 preseason from four games to two, according to a new report from ESPN’s Kevin Seifert.
From ESPN’s In essence, the league canceled Weeks 1 and 4 of its original preseason schedule. It had previously canceled its Aug. 8 Hall of Fame game. Most players will still report to training camp on July 28, but the first preseason games won’t be played until Aug. 20-24. The second week of preseason games is scheduled for Aug. 27-31. Some re-shuffling of the original preseason schedule for Weeks 2 and 3 are underway, as each team will play one home game and one on the road.
By cancelling the first week of preseason games, NFL teams will be given about 24 calendar days before their first game action of the summer. And with OTAs and minicamps done virtually, this feels almost necessary. And was necessary, in the eyes of the NFL and NFLPA. Under the original schedule, the Patriots would’ve had 19 calendar days before their first preseason game.
And for the Patriots, slicing Weeks 1 and 4 of the 2020 preseason will erase their meetings with the Lions and Giants.
It was not the first downer delivered to the Patriots and Lions in regards to the 2020 preseason, really, as the NFL began the year by noting that joint practices were off the table for 2020. Considering that the Patriots and Lions participated in joint workouts ahead of their preseason matchup last season, they were certainly on the docket once again for old friends Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia. But now, not only do the teams not get the workouts with one another, they don’t even get the game. Axing the annual Patriots-Giants preseason finale, meanwhile, will make 2020 the first preseason to go on without this head-to-head since 2004.
This all means that the Patriots will instead open their preseason slate against the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium, and conclude it on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles.
It’ll be interesting to see how Belichick & Co. divvy up these game reps with the 31-year-old Cam Newton joining the quarterback room once led by the battle between Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. Newton is by far the most established member of that group, which also includes undrafted rookies J’Mar Smith and Brian Lewerke, but he’s also completely new to the Patriots’ system and played in just two games last season due to a foot injury.
Quarterback is far from the Patriots’ only position battle to watch, too, as New England will enter the 2020 season in the midst of a youth movement, with 26 players added to the mix this offseason via the 2020 NFL Draft and free agency.