NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Titans team captains S Kevin Byard and QB Ryan Tannehill aren’t used to team meetings being affected by a television being too loud or a slow internet connection, but those kinds of interruptions are a part of the NFL’s new digital reality.
The Titans began their 2020 offseason program on Monday and, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, they did so over video chat.
Tannehill and Byard believe that the team is adapting well to the virtual format amid the challenges.
“It definitely presents some different challenges,” Tannehill said. “You’ve got connections that go in and out, some background noise, but I think we’ve really picked it up quickly.”
Byard: Some teams are trying virtual workouts, however that works. But I think Vrabel understands what we need to get done; he’s going about it the right way.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) April 28, 2020
Once the Titans’ defensive backs got adjusted to the new format, it was almost like being back at the facility for them, Byard said.
“It’s something we’re all getting used to as far as, you know, we’re all in meetings and somebody may have a TV on and it’s causing static in the background, stuff like that,” Byard said.
“As far as us, being on the screen, honestly I think it’s kind of fun. Obviously, we can’t actually be in the room together, but we’re still cracking jokes and stuff like that. It’s almost like we’re in a meeting room.”
Not being able to take the practice field, for most teams in the NFL, has led to an intensified focus on mental elements of the game.
For veterans who already have a handle on their team’s playbook, the situation has forced them to find creative ways to mentally improve.
Byard, who has already played under head coach Mike Vrabel for two years, is taking advantage of the extra time by focusing on the other side of the ball and trying to learn offensive concepts.
“I’ve been playing DB for a long time and, as far as being in this defense, I know a lot about it,” Byard said. “But one way that I’m trying to better my game is to try and look at things from a coach’s perspective. I want to learn as much as the coaches know.”
“I’m really trying to study names of route combinations, trying to learn as much about football as I possibly can because I’m not on the field and everything’s mental.”
Day in the life of @ryantannehill1:
Go throw with @Easymoney_81 a couple days a week.
Eat, hang with the kids.
Go workout at his gym at the house.
Lunch, time with kids. Wife cooking every meal doing a great job.
Afternoon, projects around the house. Can’t sit still.
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) April 28, 2020
Tannehill is trying to keep things feeling as normal as possible by maintaining the same focus during virtual meetings as he does during in-person ones.
“The same stuff we’re doing in a traditional meeting when we’re sitting in a room together, we’re doing the same thing here, just not face to face,” Tannehill said.
“Guys have done a really good job of being professional about it and learning and growing from these meetings.”
So far, the Titans’ focus, as a team, has been on positional meetings. Quarterbacks and receivers have video-chatted together while other groups have met with their respective position coaches.
Vrabel, as his players have grown accustomed to, jumps back and forth between all the meetings.
“Vrabel understands the dynamic as well as most,” Byard said. “He wants everybody to be in their position meetings going over what they need to go over. I think that’s the best way to go about it. I think it would be frustrating having 90 guys on one Zoom meeting.”
Participating in an NFL offseason program via webcam is certainly different, but the Titans are committing to make the most of the few things that are possible.
“I think it will impact teams that don’t take advantage of the virtual meetings and things like that,” Byard said.
MORE: Titans NFL Draft Recap
Cover image: Winslow Townson / Jim Brown