It’s not something you would see on many NFL teams, let alone one run by one of the league’s legendary taskmasters, coach Bill Belichick. But at Patriots training camp in Foxborough, ace pass rusher Matthew Judon has been taking part in camp and, at the same time … not really taking part in camp.
Judon has only participated in a few days of camp, and did not practice for a long stretch at all, instead just working on his conditioning on a separate field. Judon has said the reduced participation has been more about ramping him up to the start of the season—he will turn 31 in less than two weeks—than anything else, and that he has the team’s blessing to do so.
But there’s ample speculation that Judon is actually engaging in a semi-holdout (they’re calling it a “hold-in”) as he seeks a new contract after two stellar years in New England. And two Patriots legends—tight end Rob Gronkowski and linebacker Rob Ninkovich—see it that way.
Speaking on the August 1 episode of Ninkovich’s podcast, Gronkowski shook his head. “Matthew Judon holding out right now, at training camp and not participating in drills is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard. That’s silly.”
Matthew Judon Is Underpaid
Judon certainly is justified in wanting a restructured deal and a raise. He signed a four-year, $56 million contract with the Patriots in 2021, leaving the Ravens after having earned a spot in the Pro Bowl in back-to-back years. But Judon has gone from good to great in two seasons in New England, amassing 28.0 sacks after having totaled 34.5 sacks in five seasons in Baltimore.
Last Friday, Boston Sports Journal’s Mike Giardi reported that Judon and the Patriots had been talking about a new contract. Judon would not talk about that with the media, though.
“I’m happy to be here, man,” he said, per Giardi. “I’m definitely not going to talk about contracts with y’all. Y’all some snitches. But I’m happy that I’m here. I’m happy that I’m a Patriot. And then wherever that goes, it goes. The market changes every day. We’ve seen it the first day of training camp, a whole bunch of people got paid, the market changes every day. But I will not talk about contracts.”
‘Is He Losing Control?’
What’s strange from the perspective of Ninkovich and Gronkowski is that Belichick is allowing Judon to take this halfway approach to camp, which is keeping Judon from paying $50,000 per day in holdout fines while also keeping him from going full-bore in camp.
Gronkowski had harsh words for Judon.
“Like, I don’t know, just go hold out. You don’t want to get fined but you’re asking for more money? But you don’t want to get fined. Well, if you’re asking for more money be a boss and tell them to cancel the fines out when you get the new deal or something. I don’t know, it’s a weird situation.”
Both Gronkowski and Ninkovich said, together, “It’s so weird that Bill would let that happen.”
Gronkowski continued: “Bill always said, you’re all in or you’re all out. That’s why I said just go home then, if you’re gonna hold out. That’s why it’s weird. Is he losing control or something? I don’t know.”
For Ninkovich, the issue with Judon’s approach is that it sends a mixed message to the team’s young players.
“This is the problem,” Ninkovich said. “When you have a leader, or a potential leader, that is disgruntled that these young guys are looking at, and he doesn’t have good leadership skills and he doesn’t want to show up, doesn’t ant to take reps. That affects what these young guys see.”