With the constant media attention of Deflategate proceedings (It’s Day 500!), OTA news has slipped under the radar.
The Ravens haven’t had much cover to hide behind. Baltimore was suspended a week of organized team activities because of illegal padded practices. In addition to the OTA penalty, John Harbaugh was fined close to $500,000 dollars.
In Foxboro, Brady is gearing up for a legal battle that is pivotal for the Patriots. He attained an arsenal of lawyers that includes Jeff Kessler, Ted Olson, and Thomas Dupree. If seven of the 13 judges that oversee the 2nd Circuit Court agree to a hearing, Brady’s suspension will be put on hold.
— 98.5 The Sports Hub (@985TheSportsHub) May 31, 2016
Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler did not attend the first week of OTA’s. Some analysts and fans speculated that the cornerback was sending a message to Belichick: show me the money. While he is definitely looking to be paid, sources have confirmed it was not a contract related absence. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status.” Reiss said that Butler “told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he’s unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.”
Despite his contract situation, Butler is still expected to attend the second week of organized team activities.
Ravens have been fined $343K and John Harbaugh has been docked $137K for violating workout rules. Ravens have also lost 3 OTA sessions.
— Purple Reign Show (@PurpleReignShow) May 27, 2016
Let’s be real about OTA’s here. There are no pads allowed except protective knee and elbow pads. This isn’t real football. The OTA’s are completely mandatory and attendance is not required. The NFL’s culture surrounding OTA’s is very similar to division one football. If a player turns down organized team activities he will not be punished. Skipping is still definitely frowned upon. Butler’s absence certainly irks Belichick.
It’s also completely possible Malcolm Butler underwent a postseason operation. He may be on the mend. A total of 17 players skipped OTA’s. There is speculation that Butler may sign a new contract before the season is over. He is set to be a free agent before the year is over.
Martellus Bennett has come into OTA’s, immediately prospered at tight end. No one has been able to contain Bennett. Even with defenders covering him in traffic, he has used his length to corral the ball and score touchdowns.
— Sean Leahy (@leahysean) June 11, 2015
Take any news out of OTA’s with a grain of salt. Just this past year, Scott Chandler looked fantastic in the early practices. According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, “Chandler has been sure-handed and has shown off impressive athleticism for his 6-foot-7, 260-pound frame. He’s also been given special attention from starting quarterback Tom Brady in red-zone drills. Chandler appears primed for a big role in the Patriots’ offense in 2015 based on his use in OTAs.”
We all know how that turned out. Bennett looks like a strong player right now. We’ll see what happens when the animated film director straps on the pads for the first time. OTA’s are glorified walkthroughs.
Brady and Garopollo both looked strong in 11-on-11s. They combined to complete 18 of 20 passes, 33 of 51 in team drills. The Deflategate penalty doesn’t seem to be phasing Brady, and Garopollo has reportedly taken massive strides since the past season.
Jacoby Brissett was not as sharp as the other two quarterbacks. With limited rips he completed four of six, and nine of 20 passes in team drills. I don’t put much stock in Brissett. He is still a work in progress.
Cyrus Jones with an INT of Brissett in OTA's, woo hoo, lol
— Tom (@NEP4L) May 27, 2016
The Patriots appear to be trying a multitude of options returning kicks. Cyrus Jones, V’Angelo Bentley, Chris Harper, and Keshawn Martin were all involved. Edelman and Amendola might have the opportunity to take a breather during special teams.
Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, and Aaron Dobson played well during the practices. Hogan made a fantastic one hand catch. Malcolm Mitchell dove and completed a difficult catch.
— Ken Bell (@KenBellABC6) May 27, 2016
One sign of a good team is leadership, and Dont’a Hightower seems to be taking his role very seriously. According to Patriots radio play-by-play man Bob Socci, Hightower was counseling the younger players and teaching them defensive schemes in between his own reps. The team seems to be developing a new chemistry with both Chris Long and Terrance Knighton. Pot Roast claims the only challenge has been getting to know the playbook.
With the light workload in OTAs, it’s difficult to gauge whether or not a player will have a significant role. Without contact and battles at the line of scrimmage, it’s anyone’s guess.