Cardinals continue remote installs with uncertain next steps
The image of Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury above isn’t so different from what an Arizona player sees while attending offseason installs.
Screen shares and video replays from Kingsbury’s first year on the job go along with the face-to-face video conference calls.
But it’s an image on a screen. It’s a two-dimensional learning environment for NFL players as an uncertain offseason program drags on remotely because of the coronavirus.
“We’ve been installing every day, trying to kind of break it down to 12-day install, offensively and defensively,” Kingsbury said Monday. “Being in year two (as head coach), that has been a lot smoother.”
But the biggest problems are ahead for the Cardinals and every other NFL team.
Soccer in Europe and baseball in Korea are among the major sports leagues that have mapped out returns. Stateside, pro basketball and soccer leagues have started allowing limited group workout sessions as they hope their seasons can resume.
Kingsbury said he expects the NFL to distribute some sort of guidelines for the next steps in this fluid offseason by the end of the week. What those are remains as unclear as the country’s reopening practices by state and city.
The impact on the NFL teams has already taken its toll. Arizona may not put together joint practices with another team in training camp or the preseason due to the up-in-the-air schedule.
“We had talked through it. The unique offseason has probably changed that for us a little bit,” Kingsbury said. “I don’t anticipate that happening for us this preseason. We’ve definitely discussed it. We’ll see if it plays out.”
Without rookie mini-camp, younger players are already assured fewer reps. Even if and when an accelerated training camp can happen, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to put to practice what Zoom video calls are supposed to teach them in the past few weeks.
“Guess what? Our vets haven’t played football in a year as well,” Kingsbury said. “Whenever we get our hands on ’em, it’s going to be a longer time (off) than anticipated, so they’re going to need some work as well.
“When the vets get back or when they are around the vets, (rookies) obviously are not going to get as many (reps). So those rookie mini-camp reps are really invaluable.”
The Cardinals, with their current meetings, know they can’t simulate the natural team-building process online. The priorities right now are keeping players engaged while learning the playbook — and respecting that their lives are more serious beyond their jobs at present.
“As we go along, we’ll continue to change things up, different positions meet with other positions. We try to be efficient as we can with their time,” Kingsbury said.
There is no certainty of when group workouts can happen. After that, it’s obviously unclear when the Cardinals can line up for 11-on-11 drills to make sure Zoom meetings translate to the grass.
Like every other workforce, the NFL is in wait-and-see mode. When the players do get back, Kingsbury is prepared for the football to look a little worse than usual.
“With the rookies, just making sure they know where to line up,” he said. “That’s one hesitation about the Zoom meetings is everybody is going to nod and say, ‘Yes sir, I got it.’ And when you get out there, sometimes they don’t got it.”