New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

L-R: WR Juju Smith-Schuster, CB Christian Gonzalez (USA Today)

Contrary to popular belief, the ‘O’ in OTAs – the majority of the NFL’s spring practices – doesn’t stand for ‘optional.’ The full acronym is actually ‘organized team activities.’

That being said, yes the sessions are optional. Players are not required to attend, and it’s not uncommon to see veterans with significant job security skip some or all of the workouts.

  • However, players facing position battles usually have more at stake. While jobs typically are not won or lost in the spring, the simple matter of attendance can be a way to win over coaches.

    In total, 12 players were not spotted at the Patriots’ first open OTA practice on Wednesday. Who among them could have gained the most from being there? Here’s a look at the list…

    NOTE: Players are listed in order positionally


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  • WR Juju Smith-Schuster

    SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 23: JuJu Smith-Schuster #9 of the Kansas City Chiefs carries the ball for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on October 23, 2022 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

    SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 23: JuJu Smith-Schuster #9 of the Kansas City Chiefs carries the ball for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on October 23, 2022 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

    One of the Patriots’ biggest offensive signings, Smith-Schuster was the lone skill position player missing from Wednesday’s session. However, we know he’s been in the building for at least some of the offseason program since he spoke with reporters last month.

    It’s also worth noting Smith-Schuster was dealing with a knee injury during the playoffs last year while he was with the Chiefs. It’s possible he is still working his way back to 100 percent.

  • OT Trent Brown

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 25: Trent Brown #77 of the New England Patriots lines up against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 25: Trent Brown #77 of the New England Patriots lines up against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Brown hasn’t been a regular at OTAs in the past, so it wasn’t entirely surprising to not see him on the field on Wednesday. Still, he could face a challenge at his position from newly-signed tackles Calvin Anderson or Riley Reiff – especially since the Patriots would save $8 million if he’s released (he’s in the final year of his contract).

  • G Mike Onwenu

    Jan 8, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots guard Mike Onwenu (71) blocks against the Buffalo Bills in the third quarter at Highmark Stadium. Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 8, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots guard Mike Onwenu (71) blocks against the Buffalo Bills in the third quarter at Highmark Stadium. Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported a few weeks ago that Onwenu was expected to miss all of OTAs as he recovers from offseason ankle surgery. We’ll see if he can get back on the field for Minicamp in mid-June.

  • G Chasen Hines

    Aug 11, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots guard Chasen Hines (63) warms up before a preseason game against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 11, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots guard Chasen Hines (63) warms up before a preseason game against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    With Onwenu out, Hines – a sixth-round pick in 2022 who spent most of his rookie year on IR with an undisclosed injury – was expected to see time at right guard this spring. However, Hines was not spotted on the field on Wednesday.

  • DL Christian Barmore

    Jan 1, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Christian Barmore (90) reacts after a sack against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 1, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Christian Barmore (90) reacts after a sack against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    A number of projected starting defensive linemen weren’t in attendance at Wednesday’s session. That includes Christian Barmore, who dealt with a knee injury for most of last season.

  • DL Davon Godchaux

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 25: Defensive tackle Davon Godchaux #92 of the New England Patriots celebrates during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 25: Defensive tackle Davon Godchaux #92 of the New England Patriots celebrates during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Godchaux wasn’t on the practice field on Wednesday, but he’s another player we know has taken part in at least some of the offseason program. When speaking to reporters in early May, he remarked that “being here in the offseason program is a huge step” in preparing for the season.

  • DL Lawrence Guy

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 30: Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets is sacked by Lawrence Guy #93 of the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 30, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 30: Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets is sacked by Lawrence Guy #93 of the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 30, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Guy rounds out the trio of defensive linemen who weren’t in attendance. With so many snaps available, rookie second-round pick Keion White seemed to make the most of his opportunities.

  • LB Matthew Judon

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 09: Matthew Judon #9 of the New England Patriots sacks Jared Goff #16 of the Detroit Lions during the first half at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)

    Matt Judon sacked Detroit’s Jared Goff twice on Sunday, as the Pats blanked the NFL’s highest-scoring offense. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)

    Judon hasn’t regularly attended OTAs since signing with the Patriots three years ago. It wasn’t surprising to not see him on the field on Wednesday.

  • CB Christian Gonzalez

    The Oregon Ducks take the Washington State Cougars at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington on September 24, 2022 (Eric Evans Photography)

    The Oregon Ducks take the Washington State Cougars at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington on September 24, 2022 (Eric Evans Photography)

    This is probably the most surprising absence from Wednesday’s practice. Rookies rarely miss OTAs, and if they do it’s usually due to injury. It’s possible Gonzalez is dealing with an injury we don’t know about, or wasn’t ready to take the field because he’s yet to officially sign his rookie contract (although Keion White and Marte Mapu, who also haven’t signed, were out there). Whatever the case, it’ll be a bit more of a wait before we get to see him in person.

  • CB Isaiah Bolden

    JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI - DECEMBER 03: Isaiah Bolden #23 of the Jackson State Tigers breaks up a pass during the second half of the game against Tyler Kirkwood #80 of the Southern University Jaguars in the SWAC Championship at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium on December 03, 2022 in Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

    JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI – DECEMBER 03: Isaiah Bolden #23 of the Jackson State Tigers breaks up a pass during the second half of the game against Tyler Kirkwood #80 of the Southern University Jaguars in the SWAC Championship at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium on December 03, 2022 in Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

    Bolden, the team’s lone seventh-round pick, was the only other rookie not on the field. Bolden has already signed his rookie deal.

  • K Nick Folk

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 06: Nick Folk #6 of the New England Patriots kicks a field goal in the fourth quarter of a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on November 06, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 06: Nick Folk #6 of the New England Patriots kicks a field goal in the fourth quarter of a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on November 06, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

    Folk is another player who is facing strong competition coming into camp. The Patriots used a fourth-round pick on kicker Chad Ryland, seemingly ready to move on from Folk. He’ll need to compete for his job this summer.

  • LS Joe Cardona

    Sep 18, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona (49) takes the field to warm up before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 18, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona (49) takes the field to warm up before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    While the Patriots do have another long snapper on their roster in Tucker Addington, the team gave Cardona a three-year contract extension with $2.27 million guaranteed this offseason. His job likely isn’t in jeopardy. It’s also possible he’s still recovering from the foot injury that prematurely ended his season in 2022.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].

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