Unlike the last time local media was privy to a Patriots OTA practice in 2019 or even more recently for counterparts covering another upper-echelon NFL franchise located in the upper-Midwest, the focus Thursday in Foxborough was on those in attendance rather than others in absentia.
While a number of notable longtime Patriots were among the players unaccounted for, eschewing OTA’s the way Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski did two years ago and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers did just two days ago, Thursday’s practice featured two kickers, a pair of long-snappers and, yes, all four quarterbacks.
There in the red jerseys were Cam Newton, coming a 7-8 record in 15 starts last fall; first-round pick Mac Jones, whose rookie status is marked by the No. 50 he currently wears; Jarrett Stidham, who in a year’s time has gone from competing for the starter’s role to fighting for a job, period; and Brian Hoyer, a vet viewed these days as a mentor with a ‘master’s degree’ in the Pats’ offense.
Following the team’s stretch period, they warmed up together in the middle of the practice field closest to Gillette Stadium. Newton played catch with Jones initially, before joining Hoyer and Stidham for a series of throws.
They continued the first half of practice passing to a mix of receivers and tight ends and long tossing toward a bucket near the corner of an end zone. Later, the quarterbacks split up. Newton and Jones were paired together on one half of the field, while Hoyer and Stidham headed to the other end for some red zone work.
The second half of practice featured 7-on-7 reps. Included was a relatively low-intensity series featuring extra offensive players defending their position mates, reminding one that we’re a long way from training camp competition.
As Bill Belichick says annually in the spring — including Thursday morning on a video conference — OTA’s are about teaching more than evaluating.