After Bill Belichick's video conference on Friday, it was some Patriots veteran's turn to speak with the media on Sunday and the multiple issues facing the 2020 season, both on and off the field, were at the forefront of the players minds.
Both Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater started off their calls with statements that they planned to continue to use their platforms to encourage positive social justice change.
"I feel like I can use my platform in a positive way this year," said Slater when discussing his decision to play football this season, while McCourty said, "The last couple years I've been big on off-the-field things and I think it's very important that I don't lose focus on that and that everyone around football doesn't lose focus on that."
McCourty also expressed his unhappiness with the NFL's handling of the opt-out deadline, which could be moved up to the middle of this coming week after originally being tied to the official signing of the deal.
"I think it's an absolute joke that the NFL is changing the opt-out period, mainly because they don't want to see guys continue to opt out," McCourty said. "I'm sure they're shocked about how many guys have opted out, but it's the same thing as, when we sign the CBA sometimes, some of the things we think are good sometimes backfire. We have rookies who are locked in long-term contracts and tagged and tagged. You guys don't think we would love to change that? But we can't. That's the point of signing an agreement."
Despite the challenges facing the team on multiple fronts, both McCourty and Slater took a positive tone on making an impact with their leadership this summer. The two long-tenured veterans are already striking a balance between being football players and advocates.
"I'm extremely excited and humbled that I have this opportunity," said Slater. "I thank God every day for preserving my body, preserving my mind and allowing me to still be doing what I'm doing. It's my prayer that I will have a positive impact on my teammates.
"I hope they'll remember Matthew Slater the man more than they remember Matthew Slater the football player."
For McCourty he hoped to keep everyone on the same page after a strong start in the spring.
"We have a great group of guys on this team obviously and I think we're all locked in," said McCourty. "We all had great conversations all throughout the spring, I just want to make sure we stay locked in."
Full respect for opt outs
The Patriots officially added three more players who will be choosing to opt out this season -- Dont'a Hightower, Matt LaCosse and Marqise Lee. The veterans who spoke on Sunday all said the players had their full support making a highly personal decision.
"I support those guys 100 percent, their number one responsibility is to their families," said Matthew Slater. "That comes well before what happens at 1 Patriot Place."
"A lot of respect for those guys, obviously the guys who I've gotten a chance to play with over the years, who decided to opt out," said Devin McCourty. "I have a lot of respect for all those guys, we won a lot of football games together and gone through a lot of different things personally and those guys will still be my friends, I'll talk to them all the time."
"Everybody has their own unique situations for themselves and their families so they have to do what's best for them," said James White. "We all completely respect and understand that the decision that they made was best for them."
Make every day count
The tightened time frame of the preseason along with the roster limitations will provide a significant challenge for all NFL teams this summer. While getting locked in to take advantage of every opportunity continues to be a recurring theme, James White stressed how valuable every moment will be.
"Every single day, be the best team you can be," said White. "There's gonna be new guys stepping in for guys who aren't going to be there. Every team has adjustments to make. Everybody is behind the eight-ball with no offseason program. It's going to be whoever comes in here in these six weeks, puts the work in, is going to be the team that starts off the fastest. We gotta be one of those teams to work as hard as you can to put the best product out there."
"This league is so much about opportunity, it's not like other teams are getting more opportunities," said David Andrews. "We're all going to be in this thing together, and you just gotta take each opportunity and you don't know what they're going to be."
According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Patriots will place three players on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start camp, including Sony Michel, Mohamed Sanu and Brandon King. Both Sanu and Michel had offseason ankle surgeries that have delayed their timelines. King was lost in the preseason of 2019 with a reported torn quad and will be looking to regain his important special teams role in 2020.
Michel and Sanu both appear to be important pieces for the offense and any prolonged absence for either will result in additional opportunities for younger players like Damien Harris and Jakobi Meyers.
All three players are eligible to return to practice at any time, however if they remain on PUP for the entirety of the summer they'll be eligible to stay on the list for the first six weeks of the regular season. With two weeks until the pads can even come on, they have some time.