Dante Scarnecchia weighs in on Patriots' struggles, impact of COVID-19 on NFL

Darren Hartwell
·2 min read

Scarnecchia weighs in on Pats' struggles, impact of COVID-19 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Dante Scarnecchia picked a good time to call it quits.

The longtime Patriots offensive line coach retired in January after 36 seasons in the NFL, 34 of which were spent in New England.

Plenty has changed since then: Tom Brady teamed up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cam Newton came to the Patriots and COVID-19 forced the NFL to completely change its offseason programs and in-game protocols.

Those changes haven't been kind to the Patriots, who at 3-5 are off to their worst start since Scarnecchia's 17th season in New England (and Bill Belichick's first) in 2000.

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Scarnecchia came out of retirement in 2016 to coach four more seasons with the Patriots, but the 72-year-old has zero interest in returning to coach in the era of COVID-19.

"I wouldn't want to be coaching in this environment for anything," Scarnecchia said this week in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, via ESPN's Mike Reiss. "It would be extremely hard to conduct meetings wearing a mask, being on the field the same way, no people in the stands -- I think all of that would take a huge toll on a guy like me."

Scarnecchia also admitted he hasn't watched many games this season. But he still had thoughts about the Patriots' poor season, which he partially attributes to an offseason bereft of in-person meetings and formal team workouts that also eliminated postseason games.

"[People] can say all they want about the OTAs, minicamps and not needing preseason games, but that has really showed itself," Scarnecchia said.

"You're seeing it in the injuries, you're seeing it at times when players were brought in new, like Cam Newton, and weren't able to have that time to learn the system in its totality and refine his skills within the system. It really is hard. I think it's a tough environment."

Belichick has made a similar excuse this fall, lamenting the Patriots' lack of on-field preparation time after New England had to shut down its facility earlier in the season following Newton's positive COVID-19 test.

The Patriots also had an NFL-high eight players opt out of the season, so while every team is playing under the same unique circumstances, Belichick's club has faced more adversity than most.

New England won't get much sympathy Sunday night from the 6-2 Baltimore Ravens, who can all but end the Patriots' playoff aspirations with a win at Gillette Stadium.