LAKE FOREST – It’s a goal that could reflect the times in the National Football League during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Introducing intricate offensive schemes and defensive strategies are usually the norm for teams as they start the offseason training activities along with precision workouts to train players. But with team facilities shutdown, everything’s gone virtual.
Hence what Matt Nagy said on April 25th at his teleconference as the Bears were just starting up their offseason activities from home fits in with the current situation so well.
“This mute button is so huge,” said Nagy, when talking about his team’s Zoom meetings. “You’ve got to get that mute button turned on so when people are communicating.”
The head coach will have to get used to it for at least a bit as facilities remained closed to players as the pandemic continues. Meetings are taking place in a virtual space and workouts at home for at least the foreseeable future, with the league asking teams for a facilities reopening plan by May 15th.
In the Twitter video above posted by the team on April 28th, there are 126 people on the call, and it’s up to Nagy to make the most of the virtual time.
“There’s ‘X’s and O’s’ in these virtual meetings, but we’re also going to be real big on these group discussions on different types of topics on whether it’s just life in general,” said Nagy. “Whether it’s a ‘meet-and-greet,’ having these guys go into meeting rooms and breaking up.
“It’s team building, it’s cultural. We’re using some different times here, and we’re going to adjust.”
That will be especially true for those rookies that are joining an NFL team for the first time, most of whom have never stepped foot into Halas Hall. Remember, the majority of in-person workouts for prospects were canceled when the pandemic took hold in the first half of March.
“I think it’s going to be important that the coaches do a good job through the computers of having everybody introduce who they are,” said Nagy of the rookies becoming acclimated with the team. “It’s certainly different. You’re not sitting side-by-side, having side conversations, but they’ll adjust and we’ll re-adjust when we get to training camp.”
The same goes for free agents, who signed after the ban was placed on visits to team facilities. It’s a little different for safety Tashaun Gipson, who was courted by the Bears in the 2019 free agent period but signed with the Texans.
Yet he along with others are making due with what they have.
“It wasn’t as awkward as you might as one would think,” said Gipson of the team Zoom meetings he’s been in since signing with the team. “The meetings have been pretty smooth and just jumping. That’s just a testament to how this organization is ran; there’s no awkwardness or anything like that. It’s just about ball, it’s about having fun when need to be, just people joking.
“People are on there vibing and I think that says a lot in these uncertain circumstances.”
Nagy hopes that continues as he tries to get the team though a tricky time in NFL history.
“It’s almost a week-to-week type deal,” said Nagy on the virtual offseason. “When you try to look down to training camp and there season, there are people saying different things and predicting, but you never know really what to believe.
“We just want to have a plan for, ‘OK, if it happens here, and we have a training camp, if the season were to get delayed.’ Whatever it is, we’ll figure out the best way to move around and everyone’s doing it together and we’ll stay positive through it all.
“There’s some silver lining in some of this. There’s some things we’re trying to pull off that’s positive out of this and we’ll just see how it goes till the start of the season.”
When that will be still remains uncertain, too, so let the virtual offseason continue.