By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The NFL Draft will indeed happen on its original date. Teams have successfully transitioned to meeting with prospects remotely, as COVID-19 restrictions continue to put most of the sports world on hold.
That extends, of course, to the NFL’s offseason programs. None of the 32 teams can use their facilities at the moment, so the league decided to pivot to a “virtual” offseason schedule. The Patriots are one of the teams to begin their virtual program on Monday, and one of three to hold virtual workouts, according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network. The Bills and Colts are the other two teams to start the physical portion of the offseason program Monday.
Nine other teams began their virtual offseason programs, according to Ian Rapoport: the Bears, Browns, Chargers, Chiefs, Cowboys, Falcons, Giants, Panthers, and Redskins.
The NFL and NFLPA agreed to the league-wide virtual offseason programs last week and it will end no later than May 15, as reported by Pelissero. There will be no on-field work until all 32 team facilities can reopen and each team will only open in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations. It starts with three consecutive weeks of “classroom instruction”, workouts, and “non-football educational programs”.
Belichick said last week in his pre-draft press conference that he’s getting better every day at the added technology he’s forced to use for the football operation. “Learn a new button or learn a new thing to click on and see what trick that does,” he described it. Like he often does, Belichick accepts the reality of the situation and is working with what he can to get the players and staff ready for 2020. Considering the current circumstances, he sounds optimistic about the non-physical part of the players’ offseason work.
“If you compare this year to the lockout year, everybody had a lot of facilities available and they could work out wherever they wanted,” Belichick said. “That’s more limited this time, but we weren’t allowed to have any contact with the players. We couldn’t talk to the veteran players, we couldn’t talk to the first-year players, and in fact we couldn’t even sign the players that weren’t drafted until right before training camp. So, the opportunity to communicate and teach was very, very limited then. Now, I’d say we’re looking at a situation where the opportunity to train for some players may be more limited, but our opportunity to communicate with them and teach them, even though it’s remote, is infinitely better than what it was during the lockout.
“So, we’ll just have to see how all that plays out, but I do think that from a teaching standpoint, we can get a lot of teaching done that we weren’t able to do nine, 10 years ago in a similar but different situation. I think with the teaching part that we’ll hopefully be OK. I think the fundamental part of it, the execution part of it, the timing and so forth is going to be probably similar to what it was in the lockout in 2011 when you’re just dealing with training camp and you have to really accelerate the teaching or the execution and the teamwork and so forth – you just don’t have that good base to fall back on that we’ve been used to in the spring. At least, it doesn’t appear that way now. Maybe that will change, maybe we will be able to work with the players – we’ll have to see how all that goes – but even if we don’t, relative to the 2011 season, I think we’ll have a better opportunity to teach. And that’s what we’re focused on in the spring is to get as much teaching done as we can and then we’ll see what kind of opportunities we have to actually work on the field.”
The Patriots have 12 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft as of Monday. You can expect Belichick’s cache to change via trades once the draft happens, which will run April 23-25 with teams making selections and conducting their business remotely.
Despite the need for remote tech, the safe bet is Belichick’s war room setup looks more like Dave Gettleman’s than John Lynch’s.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.