Teams have had to be flexible this offseason with the way they ran their offseason training program in the midst of a global pandemic. On-field drills were replaced with private or virtual workouts. Film sessions and meeting times were done virtually with players and coaches spread across the country.
The Detroit Lions and head coach Matt Patricia concluded their offseason program this week. It was different, for sure, but Patricia said there were plenty of positives to come out of it.
"I think really for us we had a couple goals during the virtual meetings," Patricia told Detroitlions.com. "Some of it was football related and some of it was team building and trying to get to know everyone."
Nearly a third of Detroit's current 90-man roster is made up of new players that include signed free agents, draft picks and undrafted rookie free agents.
"You had guys on the call that had never really met each other in person," Patricia said. "So, a good amount of that was trying to spend time learning and talking to each other. One of the cool things about the Zoom, I'll say this, as you're trying to meet people for the first time and build relationships and understand them as a person and then their kids come flying in from the side or their family is around, you actually have a lens into what goes on outside the building.
"As much as we try to see what goes on outside the building or to get to know people outside the building, or in the building, it's still hard to do that. In our business, there's not a lot of time to venture outside the building much and get to know people, but we try to do it as much we can. This was actually a cool setting where you were actually doing both at the same time and that was pretty neat."
Teams had options on how they wanted to run their virtual program. They could do virtual workouts or choose to instead focus on virtual meetings. The Lions chose the latter, trusting the players to train and do workouts on their own, and using their virtual time to have meetings to better get to know each other and to go over scheme, technique and classroom work.
Patricia said trying to tighten up and teach some of the technique stuff was the biggest challenge for him and the coaching staff because there's no real substitute for hands on on-field teaching moments.
But there was a lot of conceptual learning the Lions were able to do.
"There were things we did through the phases of the offseason program, things we spent a lot of time on," Patricia said. "Answering why we do certain things, what we do, and then certainly an install phase where we're able to cover some pretty big areas of the game that are important. I think the guys worked really hard to be able to handle that."
It certainly wasn't an ideal offseason for the Lions and the NFL's other 31 clubs, but Patricia and the Lions made the most of it and feel pretty good about what they accomplished and how they've readied themselves the best they can for the start of training camp.