The NBA has been on hiatus for more than six weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Rams open their offseason program Monday, but with NFL facilities closed McVay and his staff will communicate with players via online meetings. NBA teams have done the same.
McVay said Rivers and other NBA coaches say that 12 to 20 minutes is the ideal length of online meetings with players. McVay’s goal is to make virtual group interactions “educational, entertaining and engaging,” with a mix of film and conversation.
“Always splicing in some TV clips is a good way,” McVay said he was told, adding with a laugh, “as long as they say nice things about the players from the commentary.”
The Rams are coming off a 9-7 season and their first postseason absence in McVay’s three seasons as coach.
The offseason for McVay was a sea change even before the coronavirus outbreak shuttered team facilities and forced the NFL to conduct a virtual draft.
McVay hired three new coordinators and a new running backs coach. In March, the Rams cut star running back Todd Gurley and veteran linebacker Clay Matthews, and let edge rusher Dante Fowler and Cory Littleton leave as free agents. A few weeks later, they traded receiver Brandin Cooks.
The Rams drafted nine players in eight position groups last week to help fill the voids.
Now McVay and his staff will attempt to prepare players for a season shrouded in uncertainty. The NFL will release the schedule by May 9, but the status of those games will be in flux as the nation, individual states and the NFL navigate the pandemic.
The NFL and the players’ union agreed this month on parameters for the offseason program, which remains voluntary. The New Orleans Saints last week informed players they would not conduct an offseason program.
But the Rams are launching a nine-week program that can include online classroom instruction and virtual workouts. No on-field workouts are permitted until — or unless — all team facilities are allowed to reopen. Offseason programs must end by June 26.
“We’ve got a plan, but I’m sure we’ll adjust and adapt accordingly based on the players’ feedback and some of the coaches,” McVay said.
Receiver Cooper Kupp said it would be impossible to replace the feel of working together in person to hone timing, recognize coverages and sharpen in-the-moment decisions.
“You can’t emulate that any other way than just being out there and doing it,” he said.
But Kupp said a virtual offseason also would enable players to prepare physically and to come back “fresh and strong” for whenever on-field activity resumes.
Defensive lineman Michael Brockers said there would be adjustments.
“We’re all professionals and we’ve got time to study,” he said. “You got a lot of time on your hands if you’re in the house all the time, so I think we’ll be able to get it done.”
McVay is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m excited about it,” he said, “and hopefully we’ll keep it fun for these guys.”