SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Monday marks the first day since the end of last season the New England Patriots get to put on the pads and make some tackles.
It's been a long time coming and some of the Patriots players say it felt like they were gearing up to play Pop-Warner out there with so much excitement to play some real football.
The helmets are on and for the first time, so are the pads as Monday marks the next phase of week four of training camp for the Patriots.
Players took the practice field this morning and for the first time could make some contact, meaning hitting, tackling, and jamming at the line of scrimmage. The Patriots are only one of the few teams in the league to not report any player on the COVID-19 list.
Head Coach Bill Belichick said the credit is due to the responsibility of the players and organization.
“I think the team and the organization have addressed this very professionally, strictly and we've changed quite a bit as more information, or different techniques or progress or whatever becomes available,” he said. “Our information has changed so we've been very fluid with this, the players have done a great job of following protocols."
Belichick also said players have been making suggestions and even raising concerns to keep the team safe and healthy. He said that's a testament to how serious the players are taking this COVID-19 pandemic amid training camp.
Daily COVID-19 testing is still continuing.
Cornerback Joejuan Williams said after this long gradual build in training camp amid the coronavirus pandemic, it was refreshing to take this next step.
“It definitely felt good to get back to normal, slowly but surely,” he said. “I love running back with the guys and doing what I love to do. I'm pretty excited about being back. It was a long offseason, got some good rest in and got some good work in at the same time but I'm very happy to be back."
Continuing their daily COVID-19 testing, Belichick said players are also given the option to wear face shields.
"The guys have experimented with it, and we'll see what ultimately their decision is,” Belichick said. “It's an individual decision, and they may change based on their experiences. Obviously, they haven't had contact so there's nothing to evaluate there but they've run in them and worked out in them and so forth."
According to many NFL insiders, all three quarterbacks -- Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham and Cam Newton -- have been given fairly the same amount of reps during practice.
Williams says this is a positive for the team.
“Just getting three different quarterbacks, you're getting different looks,” he said. “I feel like overall it's just going to help our defense be better."
After attending tryouts on Sunday, the Patriots have officially signed three more players on Monday including two tight ends. All three players also took part in Monday’s practice.