Remember the NFL lockout back 2011 when the owners and players come to a collective bargaining agreement so the owners locked out the players from March 12 to July 25? That’s kind of what it’s been like for the players this offseason while having to face COVID-19 and come up with their own practice routines.
The difference? There are many limitations including social distancing in smaller groups and having to pass with masks on.
Atlanta Falcons starters Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Alex Mack were all around during the 2011 lockout and because of that experience, they already knew how to prepare their team for the upcoming season regardless of the current situation.
One-on-One Work Has Been Beneficial
Ryan interviewed with Sports Illustrated on Tuesday and detailed how he built his offseason program for this abnormal offseason.
His main goal was to ‘keep it as normal as possible’ so it was like the team was practicing at Flowery Branch.
The first two weeks of the offseason are designated to “dead ball” where its a bunch of classroom work. That was led by the coaches via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Cisco Webex. The rest of the seven weeks are for quarterbacks and skill players to get their work in on the field.
Ryan schedule five weeks in Georgia, three in California, and a final week back in Atlanta. Practices were three days a week with 90-15 minute sessions. Of course, the practices weren’t the normal 11-on-11 but Ryan believed it was better off that way while only practicing with three guys at a time.
“For us, getting together on our own, outside of that environment, allows us to work at the pace that we need to work at, Ryan said. And when you’re working with younger guys, sometimes you have to go a little bit slower, be able to discuss things like that, and talk things through.
“That part of it has really been beneficial, and I think we’re going to be better from it.”
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Taking Team Bonding to a Whole Other Level
Hurst made the five-hour commute from his hometown in Jacksonville just to get work in with his QB. And Ryan flew out to Cali after that to train with his throwing coach and new running back. Ryan asked teammates to tag along if they felt comfortable. Julio Jones who makes his offseason in L.A. also joined them.
There was one bond Ryan has been stoked about making stronger, Calvin Ridley who is entering his third season. Ryan expects big things to come out of him this year.
“He’s a guy I think could explode going into a year like this, Ryan said. He’s in phenomenal shape, he’s been running great and I think his grasp of the offense and his mastery of our system is so much further along than it was last year.”
Stepping Into Leadership Roles
There have been no coaches on the field these past nine weeks so Ryan has taken over. While Ryan is used to being a leader on the field at quarterback, he can’t do it all alone because he’s never played in a skill player position.
That’s where Julio steps in.
“He’s an unbelievable teacher and just such an unselfish teammate, Ryan said. He’s really good for those guys in terms of showing them what it looks like to work and then helping them with his experience.
“To have him around is super valuable. He’s got so much experience, so much time on task. And he even knows, ‘Hey, this is how Matt likes to throw this one, this is why you need to make sure you’re getting full depth on this route.’ His experience is just invaluable.”