We still don’t know when players and coaches will be able to interact in person with one another. It remains entirely possible that this will remain restricted until training camp. But that doesn’t mean work isn’t being done right now. All teams are conducting virtual meetings this offseason, and some even hold virtual workouts.
T.J. Watt recently talked a bit about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ virtual meetings, but more particularly about how it’s a new landscape for teams to learn about their players on an individual basis, and how important that is for their development.
“We have the virtual meetings, and I think, just like everybody in the league, it’s just such an adjustment period for everybody”, he told Evan Washburn of CBS Sports. “I think it’s just a matter of finding how guys learn. I think that’s a big thing, when you’re getting looked at by teams coming out of the Combine, they’re always so interested to find out how you learn”.
For Watt, while he can be a group learner, he has also frequently talked about how much of his studying comes on his own time, just sitting down on the couch with his tablet and pulling up some game film, trying to study techniques and traits.
But he also recognizes that the way we learn varies from person to person, and when you have this virtual setting, it becomes all the more important to strike the right balance with each individual. That can be particularly challenging in new relationships, such as with the rookie class.
“Some guys don’t prefer these Zoom meetings at all, and that’s okay. Everybody has their own individual iPads that the Steelers send to us, and for me, I just love to watch film on my own”, Watt said. “I can always text notes into my coaching staff or other players. That’s just how I like to do it personally, but other guys are finding the team-wide Zoom meeting very beneficial”.
While most teams have now been able to reopen their practice facilities, there is no practicing going on, and the league is not putting a timetable on when they expect that might happen. That can be taken as either good news or bad news. On the one hand, it means they’re leaving the door open to all possibilities, but on the other, it also means they don’t see it immediately on the horizon.
Under normal conditions, teams would be going through OTAs right now, then on through mandatory minicamp, which most teams would hold in June, after OTAs. These are important first steps for new players to learn the system and get familiar with their teammates and coaches.
There is only so much of this process that can be simulated from the home, but right now, there are scant alternatives. We have seen some players gather together of their own accord in small groups to work out, but even this is, of course, without coaching supervision.