The NFL offseason has been difficult in many ways for players due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and one challenge is staying in optimal shape.
Gyms and other training facilities have been closed for much of the last few months as states enforced safety restrictions and social distancing guidelines. Most states have started to re-open over the last couple weeks, but some have been slower than others.
New England Patriots running back James White spoke to reporters on a video conference call Thursday, and he talked about the importance of players doing whatever possible to stay in shape and keep up with the playbook.
"Everybody is just trying to find ways to stay in shape. Everybody's going to be doing different things," White said. "There's going to be different access to facilities in different states. Some stuff is still closed, some stuff is open. You got to find ways to lift weights, run, catch the football, go over your football plays, go over your notes. Just stay on top of things. We don't know when we're going to start, whether it's early or later. We just have to stay on top of it.
"It's going to be tough those first few days in camp, whenever we start, no matter how much you've been doing. It's a little bit different when everyone is flying around and coaches are yelling and screaming and things of that nature. It's an adjustment. You just got to be in the best shape possible, so whenever you get back out there you're ready to go."
The lack of on-field workouts this offseason also has made it more challenging for younger players and new additions to build chemistry with their teammates. One example involves Jarrett Stidham, who is the likely starter at quarterback following Tom Brady's departure in free agency. Stidham has taken a leadership role in reportedly organizing throwing sessions with Patriots wide receivers and others, but the lack of full practices with most of the offense will put the team behind where it usually stands entering training camp.
"I think it's going to be challenging for everybody, not just the younger guys," White explained. "Not being together -- we usually have two-and-a-half months of working together, that camaraderie forming, those relationships are just going to be thrown in the fire a little bit. We've got to come in, study the plays and be conditioned so we limit the amount of mistakes because in the snap of a finger we're going to be playing games. It's going to be a challenge for everybody across the league. We have to withstand that adversity and make the most out of it."
The Patriots normally begin their training camp at Gillette Stadium in July, although no dates for this year's event have been announced at this time. Offseason workouts and meetings have been conducted virtually to this point.