The New England Patriots needed less drama, not more. You can say the same about practice. Coming off a disappointing season, the Patriots need more sessions, not fewer.
But the circus remained in Foxborough, Mass., this spring.
That’s the first thought that comes to mind when it was revealed on Thursday that the Patriots are losing two days of OTAs and Bill Belichick was fined $50,000 for violating NFL offseason rules. According to the Boston Sports Journal, Joe Judge conducted special teams meetings that had players stay at Gillette Stadium for longer than four hours.
The report states that Judge kept players at the facility longer than he should’ve on May 1, 2 and 4. That violated Article 21, Section 5(b) of the player’s collective bargaining agreement and in the end, the Patriots lost two days of practice.
That might not sound like a big deal, but this is a Patriots team that needs to sort itself out after an embarrassing 2022 campaign that featured drama, infighting and, ultimately, a losing season. In the spring, the Patriots are allotted 13 total practices. Now, that’s down to 11 and that’s not ideal when you’re working with a new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (Bill O’Brien), a new offensive line coach (Adrian Klemm) and a new tight ends coach (Will Lawing).
Not only are the Patriots working with a new offensive play caller, but this also marks the third offensive coordinator in three seasons for quarterback Mac Jones. It’s an important offseason for Jones and every Patriots player trying to learn a new system.
That’s why this is a bad start to an offseason where the Patriots need more time on the practice field, not less. Ultimately, it falls on Belichick. Since Tom Brady left town, the Patriots have been a mess.
That’s why this offseason is so important.
Last year’s debacle was headlined by Belichick putting Matt Patricia in charge of the offense with Judge in charge of the quarterbacks. It was a bad plan that was poorly executed. That’s why Belichick made wholesale changes on his offensive staff. Now, instead of two extra days to get players on the same page in a new offensive scheme, the Patriots are missing valuable time.
The mistake made by Judge is inexcusable. He’s a veteran who not only ran the Patriots special teams unit, and won Super Bowls, but was a head coach in the NFL. He certainly knows the rules. Of course, it was also Belichick who kept Judge in a position of power after his struggles a year ago.
Following the offensive ineptitude of 2022, Patricia left for Philadelphia, where he’ll go back to coaching on defense. Judge, however, was reassigned. The NFL Network reported this offseason that Judge would be the Patriots’ assistant head coach. According to the Boston Sports Journal, Judge was the one running “special teams workshops” that resulted in offensive and defensive players staying in the facility longer than they were supposed to.
Keeping Judge around to help the special teams unit get back on track makes sense, but this error is another blemish on a coach who’s had plenty over the past years. He had a tough exit in New York before getting fired by the Giants. He came back to New England where Belichick inexplicably put him in charge of the quarterbacks room — despite him having no experience coaching quarterbacks.
That led to Jones taking a big step backward after a promising rookie season. Now, Judge remains in Foxborough, attempting to get his career back on track by helping the special teams unit.
Maybe in the end, missing two days of non-contact practice won’t hurt the Patriots. But right now, it certainly doesn’t help a team looking to improve and leave last year’s drama in the rear-view mirror.
Belichick comes off arguably his most embarrassing season as the Patriots’ head coach and this offseason is off to a poor start.