What did the first week of training camp look like for the Detroit Lions?
Turns out it was much different from past years, which isn't surprising, given the challenges facing teams as they navigate their way through camp during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lions head coach Matt Patricia split the team into four different workout groups this first week based off years of experience with the goal to limit exposure, randomize positions within the groups and give rookies a chance to learn together.
The Lions were mandated by the league to split their squad into two groups anyways because they decided to keep all 90 players on the initial camp roster and not reduce it to 80, which would have allowed full squad workouts. The Lions have taken safety a step further by splitting into four groups.
"Within those two groups I split them up again," Patricia told reporters in a Zoom call Friday. "We really wind up being four teams that we're rolling through the building through the course of the day."
The first two groups come to the building in the morning for workouts, running, lifting and treatment, but are in two separate parts of the building from each other throughout the morning.
In the middle of the day there's a deep clean of the building for 30 to 40 minutes, and then the second two groups come in the afternoon.
All meetings this first week have continued to take place in a virtual environment.
"I'd say a very busy building and a very busy day from that standpoint for the players, coaches, strength coaches," Patricia said. "I just thought it was really important for us to get through the first 10 to 14 days here from the initial report and testing date with our players to try and do everything we could to be safe and make sure we were getting the testing protocols down and having a good idea of where we are with COVID exposure and certainly from that standpoint I thought it'd be good to start in smaller groups."
As the Lions reach the different phases of camp leading up to full-squad practice later this month, they'll incrementally expand their group sizes and the number of players working together.
The Lions essentially opted for a soft open, putting 20-30 people in the building at one time and then making adjustments before they expand to groups of 40 and then all the way to 80 before they reach full-squad workouts.
The Lions can begin on-field practice starting Aug. 12 in a gradual ramp-up period with the contact integration period beginning Aug. 17.
"Just itching to get on the field," Patricia said. "I know it's coming. We'll get there eventually. But we're just taking our time to make sure we're safe and healthy from COVID and really soft tissue injuries ... before we get to practice."