How Have Colts Adjusted To Unusual Offseason Routine?


INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL offseason routine has been “crazy,” Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich concedes.

Teams aren’t allowed to be at the Northwest side Colts complex, per a league-wide mandate, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest edict from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday is that team facilities will remain closed indefinitely and the upcoming NFL Draft on April 23-25 will be handled by virtual communication with club personnel turning in picks from home.

So how are the Colts adjusting to these unusual times?

For starters, daily Zoom video conference meetings, Reich said in a call last week. Zoom has become the necessary medium of the times.

“(General manager) Chris (Ballard) and I have talked a ton about this,” the third-year head coach said. “We’ve talked a ton about it. Nobody likes it. You want to be with the players – that’s what makes coaching fun. That’s really what it’s all about. But there is, dare I say, a level of not excitement, that’s not the right word, but how are we going to creatively gain a competitive edge? This is just another way for us to learn how to get better and for us to learn how to excel. We’re working through that.

“What does that look like? How good can we get at Zoom and at presenting like this? I’ve already been thinking and constructing team meetings via Zoom like this if and when it comes to that point that we are allowed to do this. We’re preparing all the behind the scenes stuff for that to happen. As a staff, we meet like this. Offensively and defensively, I know (coordinators) Nick (Sirianni) and ‘Flus’ (Matt Eberflus) have met, are meeting with the offensive and defensive staffs respectively ad nauseam via Zoom and really trying everything out, testing things out, how we are going to teach it (and) all those things just to stay ahead of the curve. Then (coaches) Bubba (Ventrone) and Franky (Ross) with special teams the same thing.”

It’s anything but ideal, but what other choice do NFL teams have?

“That’s the thing about this technology – you’ve got to use it (and) you’ve got to be good at it,” Reich said. “That’s what I’ve said to the staff, ‘Guys, hey you’ve got to become experts at this stuff. You need to learn every little nuance of it and find every creative way to help guys get better.’”

Reich reiterated that his thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the community, which is under a stay-at-home mandate from Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb. The coach said he prays every night for the safety of everyone who could be possibly affected by the COVID-19 virus.

“I also think it’s a reminder to those low-risk people,” he said. “This is a time to be unselfish. There is a theme with the Colts that we talk about a lot that everything matters. We’ve all been given a lot of best practices. What’s the right thing to do and some of the best practices during this time? Let’s all be unselfish and everybody do our part and we can make a big dent in this thing. Then lastly, this is a time to really find healthy and safe ways to reach out and impact other people and make a difference. Find ways to be able to do that – be creative and really reach out to someone that you can help at this time.”

Reich, like everyone else in the NFL, has no idea when teams will be able to get back to business. Offseason training activities are scheduled to begin April 20th, but that seems unlikely to start as planned, especially given the latest edict.

The key, the Colts coach says, is for his team to be as prepared as possible for when the time comes to begin work in person again. That includes the training staff communicating with players about rehabilitation and the strength and conditioning staff making sure plans are understood.

Having a flexible offseason routine is especially important when considering the Colts have been active in free agency with the additions of quarterback Philip Rivers, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, cornerback T.J. Carrie and defensive tackle Sheldon Day.

“In the meantime, as a coaching staff we’re getting ready to go – like I said, in these Zoom meetings every day,” Reich said. “I’m in a Zoom meeting every day. Chris (Ballard) and his staff have a Zoom meeting every day talking about the draft, evaluating players. So I’m on with them every day on a Zoom meeting.

“We’re getting everything ready, planning everything out so when they give us the green light – when they give us the green light to start contacting players and let’s just say … we assume it’s April 20th, that they’ll say, ‘Okay, you can start talking to them.’

“In my mind we’re getting ready like April 20th is the go date. We know that’s not going to be in person, but if that’s the go date where we can do it via Zoom or whatever other tools that we have to contact them then we need to be ready on that date.”