Thanks to the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on the NFL, head coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs are in the midst of an offseason unlike any other.
Late May would be the time period for phase three — three weeks of organized team activities (OTAs) followed by mandatory minicamp. But due to restrictions, Reid and the Chiefs are still out of the facility and off the practice field.
The offense and defense are thus getting installed virtually.
“Because we can’t go on the field, the coaches have used unique tools with them as far as maybe calling on a player to do an install, to install a play or whatever it might be.” said Reid on a Zoom conference call on Friday. “For us, it’s given all our coaches an opportunity to do installs as we go. Again, just to keep the focus of the player and again, to keep it fresh. Other than that, it’s been great. Phase three, for us, we’re kind of keeping the same schedule we had before for the most part to this point. So we’re going from two installs to three installs and then we work from there.”
Despite the frustrations that must come from only being able to communicate to his team via video call, Reid remains confident that the Chiefs are learning what is necessary to have success in the upcoming season. But there are restrictions.
Reid explained that without live reps on the field, skill-position players can’t get their route timing down with quarterbacks — and the offensive and defensive lines miss out on being able to practice their fundamentals. Reid also has concerns when it comes to the health of his team.
“You understand that injuries can go up if you’re not working change of direction or being tugged on — like a running back would be tackled, and he’s got to pull through a tackle,” he said. “It has a tendency to up injuries. We saw that a little bit with the (2011) lockout with Achilles tendons. Those things end up being important, but from a pure football standpoint, it’s your timing, your breaks. The guys are still going to be competitive. They’re going to do the best they possibly can do with whatever we give them, but it sure would help the injury area and also the game if we a little buildup to it.”
To continue making the most of their time, Reid says he has overemphasized learning. This is especially important for the rookies and the team’s offseason acquisitions, who are learning Reid or defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system for the first time.
The Chiefs coaching staff gets five hours with the rookies as opposed to two hours with the veterans. The bonus time with rookies results in a better staff member-to-player ratio, where more advanced tutoring can take place.
“They get on with them — in some cases, just one or two guys in a (virtual) room,” he said. “They get that time, and for right now, those kids, time’s important, and your attitude and approach to that is important. Are you going to stay away looking at this screen? Or are you going to stay awake? We make them keep their face showing and not click off the camera, so we see them. That’s a little bit of interaction there. One of the things we always teach the guys is when the coach is talking, try to make eye contact with him if you’re not writing something down, so that you stay focused on it.
“Whether it’s on the field or in a meeting, eyes up and on the person. So these guys — they’re doing that. We’ve had 100 percent participation and they’re cranking. They’re going, and I’ve been very happy with that, their approach. So far, so good.”
Reid also has staff meetings to check in on how well his new players are absorbing what is necessary.
“I’m getting good reports back from the coaches on the rookies,” he said. “The guys are working their tail off right now. Coaches give quizzes and all those things too, so you get an idea with feedback. And you just have a guy — I’d go, ‘Why don’t you explain to the guys 22-Z-In. Take us through and detail it.’ So you get a feel there what they know. And then with the rookies, you got a couple extra hours you can work with them, so the coaches have a little log time in there when they can get the rookies aside and visit with them.”
It is by no means an ideal scenario, but the Chiefs are doing whatever they can to make sure their transition back to the field — whenever that is — is as smooth as possible.