The 2020 NFL season is already a lot different than any other in memory.
The sports landscape has changed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything from training camps, workouts, practices, games and other facets of our favorite leagues are all being conducted differently to create a safe environment for everyone involved.
Many players across pro football also have decided to opt out of the 2020 season due to coronavirus concerns. The Patriots have had six players reportedly opt out, the most of any team. The absence of the players who opted out, in addition to the veterans the Patriots already lost earlier in the offseason through free agency and the trade market, will result in a New England roster that looks far different than what we're accustomed to seeing.
Former tight end Benjamin Watson, who played for the Patriots from 2004 through 2009 and then again in 2019 before retiring in March, recently gave his take on the situation facing the Pats and the rest of the league.
"One thing (Patriots head coach Bill Belichick) always talks about -- all the way from my first year here in 2004 to coming back this year -- is there's always change in the league," Watson told SiriusXM NFL Radio. "I'm not sure if he realized there would be this much change. This much change is always difficult for everybody, especially when you consider the fact we didn't have much of an offseason at all and training camp is going to be truncated a bit. The teams that have the most consistency and the least amount of turnover will be at a particular advantage this year that maybe they haven't had as much of in the past. But if anybody can deal with change, it's the coaches in Foxboro because that's something they always talk about."
The biggest roster changes for the Patriots is happening at the quarterback position. Tom Brady left to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency after winning six Super Bowl titles with the Patriots over the last 20 years, and his replacement likely will be Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham.
Watson is looking forward to seeing what Newton will do in New England.
"Cam Newton, we'll start there. I'm excited to see him play because this is a guy who's a former MVP, a guy that has a lot of talent, a guy who is hopefully healthy now, and he is a real game changer," Watson said. "That being said, there's a whole new system that's there. This is a different look and a different team -- that's the name of the game in the NFL. Just with the Patriots, there's been so much consistency, especially at the quarterback position, that it looks really, really strange now."
The Patriots have plenty of challenges ahead of them entering the new season, but with a coach of Belichick's caliber leading the way, you have to like the team's chances of weathering the storm.