For minicamp, the NFL gave teams two options on how to proceed virtually with their teams. They could conduct virtual classrooms focused primarily on teaching, or they could focus their attention on physical workouts.
Matt Patricia and the Detroit Lions staff chose the former. Due to two new coordinators on the coaching staff and a shortened offseason, they believed a classroom setting was the best opportunity to get this team ready for a crucial 2020 season.
“I thought the information was important for us to be able to talk to the players and communicate exactly some of the terminology, especially with two [new] coordinator,” Patricia said on a Zoom conference call on Tuesday. “And, really, I have full trust our guys are going to go do what they need to do from a physical standpoint.”
But the Lions aren’t leaving it up to chance with that last point. As we’re all learning in the days of quarantine, it’s hard to maintain a schedule or keep up with a daily workout. So the Lions are taking proactive measures to make sure their players are not only keeping in shape, but they’re also making sure they have the means to do so.
With quarantine happening suddenly and swiftly, some players no longer have access to the gym they normally go to, or they may have been stuck in some part of the country where they weren’t prepared to work out. Patricia even said there were some players who were “stuck in apartments in the middle of New York City”—one of the regions most-impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
So the first key for the Lions was to individualize everything. With different needs for each player and different resources available, the Lions reached out to everyone to see if they could help in any way.
“We tried to go through and take a gauge of what’s everybody’s situation,” Patricia said. “And also mark, ‘Okay, what do you need? Is there something that you need that we can help you with from that standpoint to get you going?’”
So the Lions sent out kettlebells or weights or whatever they could do to help players maintain as normal of an offseason workout as possible. And when equipment was limited, the Lions asked players to focus on building strength in particular areas in which they could.
But there also has to be some sort of accountability, too. In a normal year, the Lions would be having minicamp right now, and they’d be able to check in on weight and strength training. So the Lions had to come up with their own way of keeping track of offseason progress.
“We actually have a numerous amount of resources available to them, and it’s almost kind of like we’ve joined the era of these different companies that have virtual workouts online or on an app and they can go in and grab one and go,” Patricia explained. “So, we have all that available to them, and then we try to track what they do from that standpoint, so that we can help guide them through maybe, ‘Hey, they did this today. Hey, think about doing this tomorrow and kind of build upon it.’”
This is all obviously new for everyone involved and Patricia called the weight training the “biggest challenge” of the offseason program. But in the end, the Lions head coach ultimately has the utmost confidence that the culture he’s built and the kind of character he has on his team will be enough to work through this difficult time.
“I think our guys understand what training camp looks like, and I think they understand what the demand for them physically is at this point.”