NASHVILLE – The Titans wrapped up their virtual offseason program on Thursday.
Now, the team has its sights set on what should be a unique training camp.
"I felt like this was the right time," Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said. "I didn't want it to drag, I didn't want to see these long faces in the meetings and I felt like they continued to be engaged as we started to the end."
It's been a different offseason for teams across the NFL, including the Titans.
OTAs and minicamps were canceled as players and coaches met through virtual meetings instead of in person because of the coronavirus pandemic. Vrabel didn't return to Saint Thomas Sports until Monday, the next business day after the NFL opened its doors to coaches across the league.
The NFL gave teams the option of extending their offseason program until June 26.
Vrabel thinks the team accomplished as much as it could during a time when a lot of players have gathered on their own for workouts and throwing sessions.
"Our players put a lot into this," Vrabel said. "They had a lot of dedication to be on these meetings voluntarily, to be involved, to making sure that they worked out and got on these meetings, and our rookies, to be involved in the rookie program and get brought up to speed as best as they possibly could. Individual units into groups, secondary to linebackers, and linebackers and D-line, started adding those groups. The receivers and the quarterbacks and started to work in the tight ends and the running backs. That's kind of what we did.
"I anticipate an earlier start (to training camp) and so I felt like in order to allow for our players and their families to be emotionally and physically ready for the season, I wanted to try to give them some of that time, as well as our coaching staff so that we could come back fresh and ready."
Vrabel praised his coaching staff for adjusting during an offseason like no other.
"I think it forced me to realize how great our coaching staff is and how creative they are, and what kind of teachers they are to be able to adapt to this virtual setting," he said. "Again, I thanked them in front of the team. I was in every meeting, and instead of you fall into this rut of having to have team meetings every single day and stand up in front of them and talk about the things that I want to talk about. In the end, those coaches know those players better than anybody. Those six running backs that are in that room with Tony Dews working through protections, and working through routes, and working through run schemes, that's what I felt like they needed. What it really forced us to do was to break things down and to have a lot of individual meetings so that these guys can improve on their details within the calls. The time to come together, which we have to as a football team, and obviously as a society, is going to be when we get these guys back for training camp."
Now, the clock is ticking to find out exactly when camp will be allowed to start. Vrabel publicly wondered if it might be ahead of the July 28 date for all teams that was floated out this week.
Plus, there are questions about what things might look like when camp does begin because of the remaining issues surrounding COVID-19. An NFL memo sent to teams recently detailed a number of requirements. Among them: Teams will be required to reconfigure locker rooms to allow for 6 feet of space between lockers, and meetings should be held outside or conducted virtually "when possible." Of course there will be testing, and temperature checks.
The Titans are scheduled to kick off the preseason on August 15 at Washington, and the regular season is scheduled to start on September 14 at Denver.
"Whatever (the NFL) tells us, that's what we're going to do," Vrabel said. "If every person has to walk around six feet apart, we're going to walk around six feet apart. If we have to do something to change the locker room, and there can only be 15 guys in the weight room at a time and it's got to be wiped down, and we have to change our meeting rooms and put them different places and make sure that we have space, and team meeting room can't be in the team meeting room, we're going to do all that. … We're going to do what's best for the players like we always do.
"(You wonder about) just the flow of the players when they walk in (the building) in the morning and try to do that and see what that looks like. How many guys can be in a hot tub? How many guys can be in the training room? How many guys can lift and what time do you want to lift? Some guys like to lift before practice, some guys like to lift after practice. What the flow through the lunchroom looks like, and how the boxed lunch has to be, no buffet, how many guys can sit at a table and how you space that out. The meeting rooms like you mentioned, how do you do a team meeting room with 90 players? How do you do an offensive and defensive unit meeting? We're looking at all of that and I'm confident that everybody within the organization is going to help us do that and make it as seamless as possible. It's going to look different. I told the players it's going to look different. We're still going to be here for a reason and that's to prepare for a season, a successful season."