Patriots

NFL memo cancels Patriots' joint practices with Lions, per report

NFL memo cancels Patriots' joint practices with Lions, per report

An August tradition in New England has been put on hold.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell informed teams in memo Tuesday night that all 32 clubs must hold training camp at their own facilities and that any joint practices will be canceled, NFL Media's Tom Pelissero reported.

The means the Patriots' joint practices with the Detroit Lions, scheduled for the first week of the preseason leading up to their Aug. 13 exhibition contest, won't happen.

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It's an expected decision as the league tries to reduce additional travel and exposure amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, it's one that perhaps affects the Patriots more than any other team: With the exception of 2018, Bill Belichick's club has held joint practices with at least one opponent each year dating to 2012.

New England practiced with Mike Vrabel's Tennessee Titans and Patricia's Lions last season and also has a history of acquiring players it sees in joint practices.

This year obviously is an extenuating circumstance, though. ESPN's Adam Schefter added Wednesday morning that teams aren't expected to meet in person until training camp, which is usually in late July.

The Patriots have been holding virtual meetings and workouts throughout the offseason in place of organized team activities and minicamp.

Patriots' Gillette Stadium to host 20 percent of fans in best-case scenario

Patriots' Gillette Stadium to host 20 percent of fans in best-case scenario

Cam Newton could make his New England Patriots debut in front of 13,175 fans.

And that's the best-case scenario.

The Patriots announced Tuesday they expect Gillette Stadium to operate at 20 percent capacity for 2020 home games. That's if fans are allowed to attend games at all, which would need approval from state and local governments.

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If fans attend games, they'll be required to wear face coverings "at all times" inside the stadium and stay at least six feet from other parties, per the team.

To aid in physical distancing, the Patriots will distribute tickets in blocks of 10 seats or less and close off the eight rows closest to the field. The team also announced earlier this month that all ticketing will be digital and that parking at the stadium will be free.

Again, this all assumes fans will even be allowed at NFL stadiums -- and that the 2020 season will start on time -- as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the United States.

By announcing an 80 percent reduction in crowd size, though, the Patriots join several teams in at least acknowledging this season will look very different from years past, even under the best-case scenario.

Why Scott Zolak sees Jarrett Stidham, not Cam Newton, as Patriots' starter

Why Scott Zolak sees Jarrett Stidham, not Cam Newton, as Patriots' starter

The New England Patriots are saying all the right things. Stephon Gilmore recently said he's excited for Cam Newton to "compete for a starting job" at quarterback.

But we know this isn't a competition, right? There's no chance second-year QB Jarrett Stidham starts over a three-time Pro Bowler and former NFL MVP, right?

Scott Zolak believes otherwise. In fact, the former Patriots quarterback said Monday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand" he envisions Stidham, not Newton, as New England's Week 1 starter based on conversations he's had with Patriots players and those close to the team.

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"I believe Stidham will be starting QB from the people I talk to and people that I trust: the players, people tied to the team, team captains," Zolak said, as seen in the video above. "The way they speak of Jarrett Stidham and the work he has put in."

Zolak also related that Stidham has been working out regularly but simply has been less public about it than Newton, who has posted several videos of his workouts to Instagram since joining New England.

"A lot of people thought Stidham was on a two-week vacation on a wedding tour down in Texas," Zolak said. "He did go to a wedding and spent time with family -- and he worked out every day with pro-caliber receivers. That's what I was told."

Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: Did Pats just become Cam Newton's team? | Listen and subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Physical conditioning aside, Zolak believes Newton faces an immense uphill battle in learning the Patriots' offense during an unprecedented offseason in which players and coaches haven't been able to meet in person. In that sense, Zolak thinks Stidham has the upper hand after a year working under head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

"I just don’t know if Cam Newton is gonna do this in 35 days and be ready to go unless it's some completely different offense that's going to run at 40% efficiency," Zolak said.

Of course, the Patriots signed Newton for a reason, and our Tom E. Curran recently reported New England is confident the 31-year-old QB will master the playbook. Curran has also indicated Newton is committed to the Patriots and wouldn't bail on the team if he wasn't named the starter out of the gate.

At the very least, though, it sounds like the starting QB job won't be handed to Newton. He'll have to earn it.