It’s impossible to come out of a global pandemic without some battle scars along the way. For something that affects every walk of life, it is inevitable that there will be changes made as a consequence of what we experienced. Some of that comes through forced innovation, finding better or simply different and more creative ways of doing things.
Even the National Football League has had to adopt, and we saw them drastically alter their offseason schedule, completely eliminating the in-person offseason program, for example, scaling back training camp, and for the 2020 season, eliminating the preseason.
While the preseason will inevitably return, however, one must wonder how much else will be back. We have already heard hints of the NFLPA wanting to push for some changes. One of those changes, as NFLPA president (and Cleveland Browns center) J.C. Tretter wrote in an open letter on Thursday, is to eliminate the offseason program.
“I believe the changes implemented this season have demonstrated that we can put an entertaining product out on the field while further reducing wear and tear on our players’ bodies”, he wrote in part, arguing that scoring has been up while penalties have been down.
Another change that COVID-19 dictated was the elimination of offseason practices. After experiencing that change, there is no reason for us to ever return to the previous offseason program”, Tretter added, noting that the other major leagues do not have a similar program where players report outside of the season.
Needless to say, there will be resistance to this, certainly from coaches, who already feel as though they are not getting enough in-person time with their players, though there are some salient points to be made, and it is certainly the case that a number of rookies have performed well, including several on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“As a coach, obviously, we would love to have them in the spring to coach them”, Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said when asked about Tretter’s comments. “Reflecting as a quarterback and a quarterback coach, that is valuable time that we missed in the spring of talking footwork, details, protections and adjustments and everything that comes with the mental aspect”.
“For years, I participated as a player in QB school, which is a big part of tearing the offense all the way down to the nubs and building it back up with the QBs in the room”, he added. “That is a process that we really miss. Obviously, the health and safety of everybody is most important, but if we could get together, we as coaches would love to have them in because there is a lot of stuff that gets missed not going through the OTAs and seeing the looks and seeing the different issues that come up. All of that you put into that memory bank that you use during the season. I think it is valuable, but health and safety is ultimately the most important”.
It’s unclear when or if we will eventually see such changes made that eliminate the Spring workouts, the majority of which have always been voluntary. Only the three-day minicamp has been mandatory. But one thing that is certain is that some things that changed for the NFL this year due to the pandemic will stay for good.