New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 09: Trent Brown #77 of the New England Patriots blocks Aidan Hutchinson #97 of the Detroit Lions during the first half at Gillette Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)

Despite the common misconception, the ‘O’ in OTAs doesn’t actually stand for ‘optional.’ It’s actually ‘organized,’ for ‘Organized Team Activities.’

Still, those practices are technically optional for players. Some may choose to attend only a handful of the sessions, while others skip the entire period.

  • While a handful of players missed one or two of the Patriots’ three open OTA practices over the last two weeks, they had just five who didn’t take the field at all in front of the media. That group is made up of wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, guard Mike Onwenu, tackle Trent Brown, defensive lineman Lawrence Guy, and linebacker Matthew Judon.

    While it’s possible these players were at the closed practices, they didn’t show up in any team photographs or videos from those sessions either. That could be due to not being in attendance, or players who are dealing with an injury and rehabbing in the facility but can’t get out on the field.

    Since these players weren’t out on the field during OTAs, they didn’t get discussed much. What should we be looking for when/if we see them during Minicamp? Let’s take a look, one-by-one…


  • (Click here to subscribe to Patriots Audio on 98.5 The Sports Hub.)

  • WR Juju Smith-Schuster

    Oct 16, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (9) runs the ball against the Buffalo Bills during the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 16, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (9) runs the ball against the Buffalo Bills during the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    Initially, Smith-Schuster’s absence was a surprise. Bill Belichick only made things more confusing when he told reporters the newly-signed wideout was “here” when asked about practice participation.

    However, we’ve since learned that Smith-Schuster is still working his way back from a knee injury he suffered in the playoffs last year while with the Kansas City Chiefs. Belichick’s “here” likely meant Smith-Schuster was in the facility, but for rehab rather than practice.

    Will that knee injury continue to hold Smith-Schuster out of Minicamp? He figures to be one of if not their most targeted pass-catcher this year, so getting on the field with Mac Jones to build chemistry will be a big step.

  • 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

    It was reported before the start of spring practices that Onwenu wouldn’t be on the field as he works his way back from offseason ankle surgery. That report only mentioned Onwenu missing ” voluntary OTAs,” so we’ll see if he makes it back for Minicamp. In his absence, the Patriots have been rotating a number of players through the right guard spot.

  • 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)

    Of all the players who missed OTAs entirely, Brown probably has the most at stake in terms of role for the upcoming season. The Patriots signed two tackles early in free agency in Calvin Anderson and Riley Reiff, who have been mainly repping as the starters during OTAs. Conor McDermott has factored in as well.

    Because Anderson, Reiff, and Brown can all play multiple positions there’s still a lot to figure out at the tackle position for the Patriots. After seeing how the team used Anderson, Reiff, and McDermott at OTAs, this week Brown should get added to the equation to give us a full look of where things stand heading into training camp.

  • 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)

    Not much has been said about Lawrence Guy’s lack of attendance. While the Patriots did make a notable addition of a run-stopping defensive lineman by drafting Keion White in the second round, Guy’s experience and leadership ability should mean his roster spot is safe, OTAs or not.

  • LB Matthew Judon

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 20: Matthew Judon #9 of the New England Patriots celebrates during the first quarter aj at Gillette Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 20: Matthew Judon #9 of the New England Patriots celebrates during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

    Now in his third spring with the Patriots, Matthew Judon hasn’t been one for attending OTAs. Yet in the two years since he signed with the Patriots he has the third-most sacks in the NFL with 28. It wasn’t surprising to see him sit out spring practices this year – but he should be in attendance for Minicamp.

  • 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].

Sign me up for the 98.5 The Sports Hub email newsletter!

Get the latest Boston sports news and analysis, plus exclusive on-demand content and special giveaways from Boston's Home for Sports, 98.5 The Sports Hub.

*
*
By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.