Suffice it to say that nobody currently in the NFL or about to enter the NFL has ever experienced an offseason like 2020. And hopefully nobody after this ever will again, though as sad as it is to say, we can’t say that for sure. What we do know is that, among many other things, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought the sports world to pretty much a standstill, and that there won’t be any on-field organized activities in the NFL for a while.
Needless to say, this affects younger players much more than veterans who have been through a number of offseasons time and time again. It’s important for players like Isaiah Buggs, the second-year defensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers who is hoping to carve out a bigger role for himself in 2020 after the free agency departure of Javon Hargrave.
Though he may have been more prepared than most late-round picks, having come out of Alabama and also had the luxury of being coached by the position coach who would ultimately be hired by the team who drafted him, it’s fair to say that Buggs would have plenty to benefit from having an on-field offseason this year.
“You are used to working with groups in football, and now you can’t”, the second-year lineman told Teresa Varley for the team’s website recently. “You are working on your own. It’s kind of hard. You are pushing yourself, sometimes you want to quit. You can’t quit. Sometimes it’s harder but you just have to do it”.
Many players get together in the early portions of the offseason before ‘Phase One’ begins. This year, the early portions of the offseason will be entirely virtual, and if there is any actual football workouts, it will be over video sent by the team, to do in their own home. As of right now, we can’t even say if training camps will open on time, or at all.
“I just keep thinking about the season coming up. When the lockdown ends, we don’t know how much time we will have until the season starts”, Buggs admitted. “That is the big thing. Coach Tomlin stresses moments like this. He always tells us to be ready”.
“You always have to be prepared for what is next”, he went on, frankly speaking to something we all can relate to right now, with an uncertain future. “We don’t know what is next. You don’t want to get caught slipping. That is the main thing. Everyone has to continue to work and stay ready”.
As a 2019 sixth-round pick, Buggs pushed to make the 53-man roster a year ago. He was ticketed for a year of inactives before Stephon Tuitt suffered a season-ending injury, which allowed him to dress for most of the rest of the season. He played sporadically as the fifth lineman, but this season, is hoping to have a bigger role—perhaps much bigger. But every day of the offseason lost jeopardizes the chances of that happening.