Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are making the shift to virtual workplaces and NFL teams are no different.
The offseason program started in mid-April, and normally, would have consisted of workouts, but instead, this virtual program has shifted to teleconferencing.
Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is entering his 15th season coaching in the NFL, but this is uncharted territory. However, much like a team preps for the challenges of an opponent they're facing the following week in the fall, Bradley and the Bolts coaching staff are taking this virtual offseason head on.
"It is a challenge," Bradley said. "We all know the situation we're in and safety is the top priority for everybody. (But,) I think there's also that part we talk to our players about (with) always competing. Let's try to find a way to take these meetings to another level. You still have a short period of time with them, our philosophy has always been to try and get them in front of their position coaches as much as possible. So we try to change it up."
Bradley said that with no on-field workouts scheduled, and everyone settled in at their homes for the time being, he and the staff are going about these meetings differently than if they knew they had practice that same day or film to reference.
"(The differences are with) mostly just how we install," he said. "A lot of times, we'll go through our techniques and jump right into the install, put four or five defenses in (and) a couple pressures. Now, we're taking the time because we know it's extended. It's not like we can come in and watch practice, or when we do get on the field, let's go and take a look at our drill tape. So, we're using more time now to detail some of our install."
For someone like defensive tackle Justin Jones, he feels confident that even though he isn't physically in a room with his teammates, there are still things to gain from holding these meetings virtually.
"I think in every meeting, Zoom, in-person, I feel like if you really want to get better, you can get something out of anything," Jones reflected. "I'm doing my best to pull something out of every day. Even if we go over just the basics because you never (really) got it. There's something you're missing."
But along with the nuts and bolts of classwork to get the positions and units on the same page, how do you cultivate the camaraderie that goes with physically being in a team meeting room?
For Bradley and the defense, they're trying to replicate that environment by opening the virtual meetings 15 minutes before they're supposed to start and playing music to keep the vibe fun. That allows anyone scheduled for the meeting to join in early to talk with their fellow teammates and/or coaches and catch up to forge those personal connections.
Thus far, Bradley is pleased with how things have gone and is optimistic with the bonds that have been built.
"We're just trying to challenge our guys and teach in a different way to see how the players have been responding to it," Bradley mentioned. "So far, the meetings have been going really well and I've gotten a chance to talk to each one of our players one-on-one and try to have a Zoom meeting with them or at least on the phone."