INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have wrapped up their 2020 offseason workout program, which, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was completely virtual and featured no on-field work. Head coach Frank Reich recently sat down with Colts.com's Matt Taylor to give his thoughts on this year's offseason, as well as what he told his team heading into the start of training camp.
Here's that entire conversation, which you can also listen to above as part of a recent episode of 1075 The Fan's "The Last Word:"
Looking at the big picture, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a head coach heading into this offseason program and how long did it take for you to get used to the virtual format?
Reich: "I thought we got into a rhythm pretty quick about how to adapt to being virtual. I thought the guys did a great job, our coaches did a great job. So the way we did our install meetings in many ways it was like we didn't skip a beat. So the only thing we didn't get to do was get out in the field with them, and that hurts, but every other team was in the same position, so we're on equal footing. But I really think we gained more traction because of the way our players responded individually."
From your angle, what are some of the biggest things you miss as a team by not being able to be on the field this spring? How do you compensate for that when everybody returns for the start of training camp?
Reich: "You know, just being able to coach the player as far as fundamentals and technique, getting the chemistry of running plays together — we've got a new quarterback; for them to hear his voice and calling out signals. And we did that some in virtual meetings where we had virtual walkthroughs where Philip would call plays and use a snap count and the whole bit, but (it's) obviously not quite the same as being on the field, and not getting reps thrown the guys. But, you know, he's here now and working out with guys and getting ready to go. So I think we'll be in good shape."
Speaking of Philip Rivers, do you get the feeling he was able to establish himself as a leader and a big vocal part of this offseason, even though he wasn't able to physically be around his teammates?
Reich: "Yeah. I think whatever level of leadership could be established in this virtual environment, I mean, he hit it 10 out of 10, because that's easy for him to do because that's inherent in who he is. He's a great teammate, he's a great leader, loves his team. And even though he's never met these guys face to face, most of them, I still think in some ways we made great progress. and he did a great job in particular. Our guys did a good job with him, reaching out to him, getting to know him as well."
What did you see out of the Colts' rookies from the mental side of the game this spring?
Reich: "We got guys who are smart guys, understand football, know how to learn, and now we just gotta make sure that they can apply it on the field. I mean, I think these guys got a really good start and a really good handle on the offense and defense and the way we do our special teams. So that was very evident. So I give them a lot of credit — I give our coaches credit and how they instructed them as well. But it was quite impressive."
All three coordinators are returning for a third straight year in 2020. Do you think that gives you a leg up or at least gives you the chance to hit the ground running as seamlessly as possible heading into training camp given all the familiarity?
Reich: "Yeah. I really think it's going to be critical to our success, to have the continuity and consistency of the same schemes and system. Now, we're always adapting and adjusting and growing, but you know how I feel about our three coordinators; they're all top-notch. And so just to continue to learn and grow and build those systems is important."
You've said you feel really good about this 90-man roster and commented how much it has improved overall since you became the head coach. How intense do you see competition for spots being in camp? Picking some of those jobs seems like a good problem to have.
Reich: "Yeah, it's a really good problem for the team to have. It's not a good problem for Chris Ballard and I to have, as far as … those decisions are tough. But that's ust part of the business and everybody knows it. So the result is, the competition is key. I mean, good competition, it helps us grow. And so we're looking forward to that."
It was announced recently that training camp across the NFL must be conducted at team facilities, which means the Colts will not be hosting camp at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., this year. How disappointing was that to hear, just knowing how much you look forward to the camp atmosphere and getting away and being in front of the fans during the summer?
Reich: "Yeah, I am going to miss being up at Grand Park and in Westfield, Our players, I think, really enjoy it up there. And Westfield does a great job and it's a great facility. But it's like the rest of the offseason; we'll adapt and we'll adjust. And there will probably be some advantages because, you know, we have some new players who've never been in our facility. So it gives our guys a chance to get to know home base a little bit sooner, so we'll make the most of that."
What is your message to the players as they head into that break before training camp is set to begin in late-July?
Reich: "You know, just to stay on track. Don't be surprised if things start normal and on time; be ready to go, physically, mentally, emotionally. Get recharged, but keep working hard. You know, we'll stay in touch with them a little bit here and there just checking in on them, but get ready to go. It's going to be a good year."