Entering critical second season with Patriots, Jonnu Smith front-and-center at OTAs

Jonnu Smith’s first year as a Patriot didn’t get off on the right foot.

Smith, along with many other veterans, opted out of the lion’s share of OTAs in 2021 because of concerns over the league’s COVID policies. He suffered an injury that cut into his participation in mandatory minicamp. And he welcomed a child which, while obviously great news, also diminished his availability in his inaugural season with the team.

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Monday at Patriots OTAs, the tight end indicated he’s all in for all of it this offseason.

“I’ve been here since April 19, grinding every day trying to be part of the team-building chemistry,” he said. “In the locker room, even outside of here. If we’re out in Boston or we see each other at the games, Celtics games or Red Sox games, that team-bonding atmosphere. We finally come out here, we were all anticipating Day 1 and you could feel the energy, there was a lot of good energy out here.”

Smith had 28 catches for 294 yards last season. He played just 51 percent of the Patriots offensive snaps. It’s very safe to say the Patriots were and are hoping for more from Smith after signing him to a four-year, $50 million deal with $31.25 million guaranteed last March.

“I missed a lot (in 2021),” Smith agreed. “I had a ding in minicamp, I had…

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