Monday was supposed to be a lot of things for a lot of people.
For the Giants, April 6 was always circled as the beginning of their voluntary offseason training program. It was going to be the first time the new and old members of the team mingled together, the first time all of the pieces would be under one roof, and the first time new head coach Joe Judge would have an opportunity to address all of them.
A rousing speech that outlined Judge’s goals and philosophies while introducing himself in person to many of his new charges for the first time would have been in order. The kind of address that Judge, the 38-year-old, first-time head coach, has been waiting and working a lifetime to deliver.
Instead, the only thing Judge and the Giants were able to do was send an electronic version of the playbook and some pre-recorded teaching materials to iPads that they had already distributed to the players.
A journey of 1,000 miles begins with but a single upload.
Like many businesses, all NFL teams have closed their facilities to players and nonessential employees in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Unlike many businesses, the NFL teams are not yet permitted to use videoconferencing to communicate with and amongst those players.
So there was no Zoom meeting with the players and coaches on Monday. No Microsoft Teams for the teams. Just a few files that might be able to be translated to bring the Giants up to speed during this offseason of isolation.
Essentially the students in the new systems on both offense and defense have been given their textbooks and syllabus, but no other instructions or context. They know what they are going to be asked to learn, they just haven’t yet been taught it.
That’s a big hurdle for a team like the Giants with a new coaching staff, and it is why teams that have made such changes since last season are allowed to begin their offseason programs two weeks ahead of the rest of the league and also schedule a second voluntary minicamp besides the one mandatory one each team is allotted. The Giants’ voluntary minicamp was originally scheduled for later this month, April 21-23. While that has yet to be canceled, hardly anyone expects it to be held. The five teams with new head coaches are the Giants, Cowboys, Redskins, Browns and Panthers.
On Friday, however, the NFL sent out a memo putting the idea of virtual meetings on hold. The league informed teams that it and the NFLPA are working to revise the offseason workout calendar that would permit teams to conduct classroom instruction, workouts and non-football educational programs on a virtual basis while team facilities remain closed, but did not provide a launch date for such activities.
The only communication allowed from the coaches to the players until such point is the sharing of playbooks and some pre-recorded videos on team-issued tablets for voluntary use by the players. The videos may include coaching or instructional voiceovers or audio content, superimposed diagrams, schematics or written commentary. But there will be no live communication for now.
Judge was understandably excited about the start of his first offseason program when he last spoke publicly, at the NFL Combine in late February. It wasn’t just about installing the football, either. As a newcomer to the organization, he wanted to finally put his eyes on the men on his roster and size up his squad.
“Without having the players on a daily basis, being able to work with them on a daily basis, there’s so much you’re missing on getting to really know these guys,’’ he said.
The wait for that will continue.