Virtual offseason programs for teams like the New York Giants can begin on Monday, per guidelines recently agreed to by the NFL and the Players Association.
What is that going to look like? Per NFL.com:
The virtual period will consist of three consecutive weeks of classroom instruction, workouts and non-football educational programs using videoconferencing technology. An extra voluntary veteran camp will be available for new coaches, with the virtual period ending no later than May 15.
Team facilities will not be allowed to re-open unless all 32 teams are able to do so. If facilities cannot open by the end of the offseason program on June 26, teams will be allowed to hold a virtual mandatory veteran minicamp.
What does all of this mean for the Giants?
This is certainly not the way Joe Judge hoped, or planned, to begin leading his first offseason program as an NFL head coach. During his conference call last week with New York media, Judge said he and his staff have “for some time” been getting ready for their new virtual reality.
“Without going into too many specifics in terms of what we’re using, we’re using some virtual meeting software, like most everyone in America is — like my kids are in the kitchen right now taking virtual school. We’re going to start out with position meetings. We’re going to take our time of going through, making sure that first off all of the players are sound and set up on how to use the software. Before we get into too much of the football, we’re going to make sure that everyone knows how to use it, and where to find all of the information,” Judge said.
“Monday is going to be a lot like a first day back in the building, you know, through a regular spring program. We want to spend some time with position coaches, we want to make sure the coordinators get a chance to address their room, and I’ll have a chance to talk to the team for the first time. So, before we get into all of the X’s and O’s of football, there’s an important element of just getting to know the players and them getting to know us that has to take place.”
At a disadvantage?
There is a popular — and probably correct — theory that a team like the Giants with a rookie head coach and new offensive and defensive schemes to install will be at a competitive disadvantage vs. teams with established coaches and programs.
Judge, of course, doesn’t want to hear it.
“I think the advantage goes to whoever is best prepared from this point forward,” he said. “I don’t think any established program is at an advantage over anybody else. It’s how you can find a way to communicate with your players and deliver a message. Whether you’ve been in the program for years or not, everyone has changes to their system, everybody has changes to what they’re going to be doing in the offseason. They’re going to have the same challenges of communicating to their players.”
Judge indicated that the saving grace of the current situation is the tech-savvy nature of this generation.
“There’s no generation that’s been more prepared for this offseason than the ones we’re going to deal with now,” he said. “They are very technologically savvy, they are going to have a lot of feedback that we’re going to get from them that we’re going to rely on in terms of how we can improve our meetings, to do what helps them.”
What lies ahead?
There remains tremendous uncertainty about when teams might be able to gather for on-field work, when training camps might open, and when or if the 2020 NFL season will go on as normal or in some modified fashion.
Judge has plans pre-set for a variety of scenarios.
“We’ve made four calendars already in anticipation of different scenarios that could come up,” Judge said. “We have them color coded, so if we get the players as scheduled, we’re working off the blue calendar. If we don’t get the players, we’re working off the red calendar. If we get them later in the spring, we’ll pull up the purple calendar. We have different scenarios mapped out, so we have a plan of attack when that time comes.”
The right perspective
In these scary times when the COVID-19 pandemic has cost so many people their lives, Judge has the proper perspective.
“I think if the worst thing we’re dealing with right now, to be honest with you, is working out of our basement, we’ve got it pretty good. Look, there’s a lot of people out there right now who don’t have jobs to go to with this situation, there’s police, fire department, there are nurses who leave their house every day, who leave their family behind and they are putting themselves out there to protect us. So, I think there’s people we have to acknowledge with the right perspective who have it a lot tougher than a bunch of football coaches just trying to function to get ready for an offseason and a draft.