Denver Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio met with the media this week to talk training camp and the upcoming 2020 regular season. There won’t be any preseason games, so it’ll be a different kind of season than any of us are used to. Even practices are going to vastly different over the next month.
Fangio was asked how much thought he has given to how practices will look and how he’ll run camp. He covered a lot of ground in his answer and gave us all a lot of insight on how many details a head coach has to account for, especially when there is a pandemic to worry about.
“The part that’s been really hard and has given me a couple headaches in the last week or so in the sense they came to an agreement is doing the daily schedules,” Fangio said. “When you try to put together a daily schedule in training camp, especially the first couple of weeks where you have a group of guys that are on one schedule and another group that are on another schedule—then you have to factor in you can only have so many people in the weight room at a certain time, you can only have so many people eating in the cafeteria at a certain time. Those were some serious gymnastics to get done.”
The logistics of social distancing in a locker room is a lot bigger than people realize, but Fangio has spent a lot of time figuring out the timing of each situation off the field while at camp. Fortunately, it would seem the on-field practice sessions have a little less to worry about from a logistical standpoint.
“When it comes to practice, I think practice will be fairly normal,” Fangio continued. “The whole theory of what we’re trying to do, and I don’t think anybody’s trying to sell it any other way, is when we’re on the practice field and on the game field, we’re playing football period. Everything else when we’re off the fields is where we’re going the extra mile in social distancing, people being together, wearing the masks, etc. I think on the field for those of you that will be here watching us, I don’t think you’ll see a whole lot of difference other than we’ve made the point that when we have a team drill going on in practice—the 22 players that are out there partaking, they’re out there playing football. The other players that are not in—you all are usually seeing them in a crown next to the coach watching the action, talking about it, they’re going to be spread out a little bit more than normal. Other than that, I think you’ll see more spacing for people not in drills. I think the drills will look relatively the same to you.”
The other issue the team is facing is a complete cancellation of the entire NFL preseason in 2020. How much can coaches truly do in terms of evaluation of young players without ever seeing them in a game situation?
“Obviously with no preseason games, we’ll lose those evaluation times,” Fangio said. “They’ve knocked practice back some in how long you can be out there. We’ve lost some practices also—real practices, not walkthroughs and Phase 2 type practices. It’s going to be a challenge. It’ll be a challenge for the young players to learn and adapt to the game. It will be a challenge for us to make the right decisions when it comes time to select the team. Maybe in practices we’ll have to have some live action in there on occasion. I’ve never been many places where that’s been done in practice. We just relied on the preseason games for that. We’ll just go from there.”
Basically, what more can they do? The terms of the agreement between the NFL and NFLPA are set and the coaching staffs around the league will have to adapt and work harder to get the team ready for Week 1. The issue for Denver is that they are a very young team offensively and will need a lot more reps to get better.
“We may practice a time or two at the stadium to get them adjusted to being in a big stadium, an NFL stadium, although it would be empty,” Fangio said. “You’re right that’s going to be—a lot of those guys, all of them, you can’t evaluate them totally until it’s live action. Who can tackle, who’s willing to tackle and who can break tackles, it will be an adjustment for everybody.”
Fangio has a plan for simulating the gameday situation, but there is only so much he can do without fans. The best they can do is scrimmage as much as is allowed and try to get the best players on the active roster for Week 1.