New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick showed a glass-half-full mindset during his first conference call of the 2020 season Monday.
Not only was Belichick not making any excuses before the NFL’s unprecedented virtual draft, but he explained how the league’s restrictions due to the coronavirus both are similar and different to a situation which impacted a prior offseason — the 2011 NFL lockout.
While things obviously are different in the world around us, it seems Belichick believes, from a football standpoint, the current situation actually has some benefits the lockout didn’t.
“If you compare this year to the lockout year, everybody had a lot of facilities available and they could work out wherever they wanted,” Belichick said, via a team-provided transcript. “That’s more limited this time, but we weren’t allowed to have any contact with the players. We couldn’t talk to the veteran players, we couldn’t talk to the first-year players, and in fact we couldn’t even sign the players that weren’t drafted until right before training camp. So, the opportunity to communicate and teach was very, very limited then.”
That’s not exactly the same now, though.
Of course, the Patriots and the rest of the NFL are limited to predominantly virtual interactions. (It’s surprisingly led Belichick to be somewhat well-versed in the digital world). But with that, the foundation of coaches teaching and players learning is stronger now than in 2011, Belichick indicated.
“Now, I’d say we’re looking at a situation where the opportunity to train for some players may be more limited, but our opportunity to communicate with them and teach them, even though it’s remote, is infinitely better than what it was during the lockout,” Belichick added. “So, we’ll just have to see how all that plays out, but I do think that from a teaching standpoint, we can get a lot of teaching done that we weren’t able to do nine, 10 years ago in a similar but different situation.
“I think with the teaching part that we’ll hopefully be OK. I think the fundamental part of it, the execution part of it, the timing and so forth is going to be probably similar to what it was in the lockout in 2011 when you’re just dealing with training camp and you have to really accelerate the teaching or the execution and the teamwork and so forth – you just don’t have that good base to fall back on that we’ve been used to in the spring. At least, it doesn’t appear that way now. Maybe that will change, maybe we will be able to work with the players – we’ll have to see how all that goes – but even if we don’t, relative to the 2011 season, I think we’ll have a better opportunity to teach,” Belichick added. “And that’s what we’re focused on in the spring is to get as much teaching done as we can and then we’ll see what kind of opportunities we have to actually work on the field.”
The 2011 lockout last more than five months — from March to July — so, hopefully, teams will be able to return to their facilities quicker this time around.