INDIANAPOLIS — Most football coaches strive to be just that — football coaches. While they have various interests off the field, their comfort zone is on the field and in the meeting room, developing a group of men into the best players they can be.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich is asking his staff to expand its horizons a little bit, however.
With the COVID-19 health emergency taking its toll across the world, most professions are at grips with all sorts of sudden changes. Social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions are now the norm for the foreseeable future, so for the Colts' players, coaches, front office staff and their families, staying safe and healthy remains the No. 1 priority.
But with the NFL offseason calendar continuing to roll right on, and with the beginning of the offseason program potentially right around the corner, Reich knows it's important for his team to have every advantage at its disposal possible, even if that means bucking traditions and embracing technology.
"That's the thing about this technology — you've got to use it (and) you've got to be good at it," Reich said this week in a video conference session with local reporters. "That's what I've said to the staff, 'Guys, hey you've got to become experts at this stuff. You need to learn every little nuance of it and find every creative way to help guys get better."
While Reich said this week the league hasn't given final word about when offseason programs, even remotely, can begin, the Colts, as of now, are working off the assumption that the players will be able to start participating in some way or fashion beginning on April 20, Indy's original report day for players.
Reich and general manager Chris Ballard have already "talked a ton" about how to try to move forward with team-related meetings and communication this offseason. The team's coaching and scouting staffs have already been having video conference meetings on Zoom, and now the focus is shifting to getting a plan together for how the players can utilize the same tools if and when meetings can begin.
"How are we going to creatively gain a competitive edge?" Reich said he's asked his staff. "This is just another way for us to learn how to get better and for us to learn how to excel. We're working through that. What does that look like? How good can we get at Zoom and at presenting like this? I've already been thinking and constructing team meetings via Zoom like this if and when it comes to that point that we are allowed to do this. We're preparing all the behind the scenes stuff for that to happen.
The players, meanwhile, are prepared to roll with the punches.
After 16 seasons with the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers, new Colts quarterback Philip Rivers is doing everything he can to be as ready as possible to take the field in Year 1 in Indy. Communication has always been a huge part of his approach, but now it's even more important.
"I don't want that to slow us down any and I will make sure that doesn't happen," Rivers said. "So I'm sure, again, depending on what's going on and how we are operating in this country — (communicating) with those guys will be important too. Whether we can get together or not, I don't know. But communicate and just again, build a friendship, build a relationship. I think that camaraderie is huge."
Defensive tackle Sheldon Day, who signed a free agent deal with the Colts on March 25, thinks technology can help bridge any gaps as he tries to grasp the Colts' defensive system and get used to his new teammates.
"We can FaceTime, we can Zoom, obviously, and there are just so many ways you can still connect and grow," Day said. "You have Instagram, you have Twitter, so it's all about being able to grow that bond in different types of ways. You don't have to be physical to grow that bond. If it does get pushed back that far then ultimately we'll come up with a plan to make sure that everybody is on the same page and everybody has the same expectations heading into the season."