While the NFL Virtual Period took adjusting for players around the league who were accustomed to traditional offseason training programs, it was not just the lack of in-person reps that created challenges.
Football is just as much mental preparation as it is physical talent. The classroom, or film room, is crucial for athletes to settle into. This offseason, the virtual meetings forced upon all 32 NFL franchises — unless they chose not to conduct any — due to the COVID-19 pandemic emphasized an even greater importance in this area.
For Arizona Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries, they became a bit monotonous. It was difficult for the franchise to get creative with different ideas on how to say the same thing in the meetings. This was exacerbated by the lack of practice film to review.
"After a while, when you're not watching yourself every day, it's kind of a buffer for the rest of the stuff," Humphries told reporters via videoconference Monday. "Pretty much every day, the stuff that we went over during the virtual meetings, they would have had to filter that in with our film also, of us practicing. So, when you don't have that footage of two hours every day, it's a lot of quizzes."
Those quizzes did not ease up on difficulty, either.
"I'm going to tell you, for a player, it's a lot more tests and pop quizzes," Humphries said. "And, boy, is it hard to cheat when you have the mic and the camera on your face. It's hard to cheat off your paper when coach is asking you a question. He's looking at you like this and you're like, 'Yeah, coach it's a ...' Coach is like, 'Can you look at the camera please? The camera is in front of you.' It's hard. It was fun. It was good to see how mature our (offensive line) room is. I don't think we had many instances where guys missed. If it was, it was just a miscommunication of time or something like that. So, it was good to see guys adjust."
As one of the veteran leaders of his position group and having just inked a three-year, $45 million contract extension, Humphries has taken the differences of this offseason compared to year's past in stride.
With players having been on their own to train for the past few months, Humphries emphasized he is curious to see how some of his teammates responded to the newfound freedom.
"Last year was my first year getting some vet days throughout the offseason," Humphries said. "(Head coach) Kliff (Kingsbury) came in and he — obviously he's a players coach and he's played the game before, so he already had some understanding. He gave me some days to make sure I was able to get through the season with my body. I'm interested to see how that works for guys who've been on the fringe of being beat up and hurt and just having to roll it over every year so they can get the job done. See if this will give guys an offseason to reset everything and guys will be a little bit more fresh, or if it'll be the opposite and it'll be reminiscent of the (2011) lockout.
"It was either guys were really in shape and they were locked in during the offseason, or they were really out of shape because they were only doing virtual meetings. I think it's going to tell itself really quickly. Especially on the o-line. It is really exciting to have pretty much the same people back. That's the part that people don't understand is so important, we've have so many interchanging parts throughout the last few years and (now we) finally get a group of guys that are honed in on each other."