How Lions rookies are staying in shape during virtual offseason

The 2020 NFL class of rookie draft picks and undrafted free-agent signees face an uncertain future unlike any rookie class before them.

In past years, rookies would be in their team's home city participating in OTAs and minicamp.

But that isn't happening because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of team practice facilities are still closed, including the Detroit Lions' training facility. The Lions have been conducting a virtual offseason training program.

"Really, their time to impress and get on the radar, and get real reps in training camp is during the spring because you have more opportunities," Lions general manager Bob Quinn said about the difficulties young players will have in trying to impress teams without spring or summer football.

"Some of your veterans aren't taking as many reps, as you guys know, in the OTA practices. So, you can get a lot of these young, late draft picks and rookie free agents a ton of reps in the spring. And then if they show that they are capable and they deserve a chance to compete, then they are going to get more reps during the early part of training camp to really be able to make the team."

But, if the Lions and the rest of the NFL aren't going to have a normal offseason, it's going to be harder for them. It's something Quinn said he and his staff have talked about internally.

The Lions rookies will have to manage the workout and nutrition part of getting their bodies ready for the rigors of the NFL away from team facilities.

"Just get to work. I mean, I can control what I can control," Lions first-round pick Jeff Okudah said shortly after being drafted. "I'm going to do everything that I can to be as ready as I can be whenever I get to Detroit."

Lions fifth-round pick, wide receiver Quintez Cephus has been fortunate enough to continue to work out at EXOS in Phoenix, Ariz.

"I've done a lot of work with those coaches out there," he said in his introductory conference call last month. "Working on my gait or working on my stride and all that – I've just been working in Arizona. Those guys – they know what they're doing. Wherever I am, I'm going to put in the work; I'm going to get to work, so that's what I'm excited to do."

Lions sixth-round pick, defensive tackle John Penisini, said he plans to do whatever the Lions instruct him to do from a training and nutrition standpoint, but is first focused on getting up to speed on scheme and technique in Detroit's virtual classroom.

"To be honest, just follow their program, whatever they're going to send to me," he said. "Learn the game mentally because honestly, if you don't know exactly what the plays are, then you can't go full speed.

"It's really difficult to play if you don't know what the plays are. But other than that, just keep working out, staying in shape – I have my teammates out here, some of the boys who actually live out here from Utah. So we can run some one-on-ones and stuff, but once quarantine is done and everyone is ready to get out, with the virus and whatever ... would love to come out to Detroit."

Then there's Detroit seventh-round pick defensive lineman Jashon Cornell, who's keeping up with the physical part of his training in a home gym he's created.

"I grind six days a week. That's one thing I need each and every week," he said. "I built my own gym in backyard in my shed. I run hills. I go on bike rides. I do different things to stay in shape and stay strong, so I can be ready when it comes time for camp."

Cornell ordered racks and bench press equipment and dumbbells on Amazon. He's also got space to do d-line drills and ladder drills in the back yard.

These are certainly strange times in the NFL. The hope is certainly for the infection curve to flatten and then reduce enough in the country for all facilities to open up. Until that time, however, the Lions will send out as much information and accommodate these players as best they can, but just how well they'll be prepared to compete with the NFL veterans at the start of training camp without a spring offseason training program is yet to be seen.

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